Wind farms in Gansu province, China

The European Commission has published a roadmap exploring different energy pathways over the next 40 years. The calculations show that an energy system based largely on renewables and efficiency will cost taxpayers no more than a system locking Europe into fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

Renewables emerge as the dominant energy source, despite some skewed calculations to keep nuclear energy and fossil fuels in the energy mix.

There is therefore clear proof that nuclear or fossil fuel is not needed in the energy pathway for Europe, and it is not even more expensive to choose the clean energy path. With much of Europe's ageing energy system in need of an upgrade, the Commission has explored five pathways: one relying most on energy efficiency, one based on a mixture of technologies, one focused on renewables, one on nuclear energy and one on coal and gas with carbon capture and storage. Overall investment costs (including electricity price, fuel costs, investments in energy efficiency and other structural costs) are forecast to be almost identical for all scenarios, including for business as usual.

The roadmap puts the share of renewables in total energy use by 2050 at between 55% and 75% – up to 97% in the share of electricity consumption. In the high renewables scenario, nuclear power and coal are reduced to mere place-holders, accounting for less than 1.5% and 1% respectively in total final energy use. According to Greenpeace EU energy policy director Frauke Thies, the roadmap shows that getting clean energy from renewables will cost taxpayers no more than getting dirty and dangerous energy from coal or nuclear power. The Commission will be tempted to overplay the role of coal and nuclear energy to appease the likes of Poland and France, but the numbers in the roadmap are unequivocal. It proves that a modern energy system can't do without renewables and efficiency, but can easily consign coal and nuclear power to the past.

The road map is demonstrating the pathway to renewables is economically effective. What we lack here is political will rather than technical or financial measures.

What does EU energy road map tell us in China?

Cheap, dirty energy has sometimes been seen as the key force to power China. But that low price has failed to incorporate external environmental costs into its pricing system. The end user may appear to benefit from coal power but what has been paid when the output leads to air and water pollution, with serious effects on people's health? In the short term, China may profit from such an energy structure, but in the long run, a moments' relief merely means more suffering to come. China still follows the "develop and pollute first, clean up later" model.

A quick look the EU roadmap indicates renewable energies as the more economic option. As the world's biggest carbon emitter, China must begin to move away from coal. And developing renewable energy is the only solution.


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