Limited Utility: The European energy companies failing on net zero commitments

A new report by Ember and Europe Beyond Coal finds that the business plans of major European power utilities do not contain the intermediate targets necessary to deliver on their net zero pledges.

Image: PixabayImage: Pixabay

When examined against the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) net zero by 2050 roadmap, not one of the analysed strategies reaches all of the milestones on fossil fuel phase-out and accelerated deployment of renewables required to achieve the mid-century target and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

Only nine have committed to phase out coal in the EU and OECD by 2030 and in the rest of the world by 2040, despite sixteen pledging to reach net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest.

All will be operating fossil gas power plants in the EU and OECD beyond 2035 according to available data.

Together they will comfortably quadruple solar and wind capacity from 88 GW in 2020 to 428 GW by 2030, but will fall short of the minimum six-fold global growth required.

About the report

This report investigates whether or not the near-term plans of twenty one Europe-based coal-burning utilities align with the urgent need to decarbonise their fossil fuel electricity portfolios and accelerate their deployment of renewables. Sixteen of the companies have pledged to reach net zero emissions by 2050 but the analysis reveals that less than half will achieve the required 2030 EU/OECD coal exit, and none have committed to a 2035 exit from unabated fossil gas electricity production in the EU/OECD. Together they will comfortably quadruple solar and wind capacity from 88 GW in 2020 to 428 GW by 2030, but fall far short of the growth and acceleration required.

Utilities analysed by the report: BEH, CE Oltenia, ?EZ, Drax, EDF, EnBW, ENEA, Enel, ENGIE, EPH, Fortum/Uniper, Iberdrola, Naturgy, PGE, RWE, SSE, Sev.En, STEAG, Tauron, Vattenfall and Ørsted.

“There’s growing consensus among governments of advanced economies that a clean electricity supply by 2035 is crucial to realising net zero emissions by 2050, but that’s not being reflected in the business plans of European utilities. These urgently need to be aligned with the International Energy Agency’s net zero roadmap if we want to keep global heating below 1.5 degrees and escape the energy price and supply crises caused by volatile fossil fuels,” says Sarah Brown, Lead author and senior energy and climate analyst at Ember.

“Not one European coal utility analysed by this report is making plans to meet all science-based milestones to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees. If Europe is to do its part for climate action and exit coal by 2030, and have a fossil-free, renewables-based power system by 2035, these companies need to show near-term plans to close coal and fossil gas plants, and massively scale up the build-out of wind and solar power generation. All the talk of mid-century targets is just fluff so long as their business plans have no way of delivering on them,” says Kathrin Gutmann, Europe Beyond Coal campaign director.

“Each of these companies knows very well what is required of them to deliver on their net zero pledges, so the gaping hole between their so-called ‘ambition’ and what they actually intend to deliver is very revealing. It’s time to draw a line in the sand: if companies do not align their business plans with the intermediate milestones required to deliver on their net zero pledges, financial institutions providing them with support must intervene,” says Kaarina Kolle, Lead author.

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Ember, Europe Beyond Coal, utility, Europe, power, target, net zero, pledge, phase out, coal, renewables

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