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Sustainable Energy Vision for the EU-27 -
Phase out of Fossil and Nuclear Energy Until 2040

EU Sustainable Energy Vision 2040 (New: July 2011)

A full-sized copy of this poster can be downloaded here:
Poster EU-27 2040: (pdf 1.3 MB)

The European Sustainable Energy Vision includes a vision for the transition of the energy supply and demand for the 27 EU countries to 100% renewable energy together with phase-out of fossil and nuclear energy until 2040. With the vision and the underlying scenario is a reduction of CO2 emissions from energy use of just above 40% until 2020 and just above 70% until 2030 from the 1990 level for all energy use except aviation and international navigation that are not included in the scenario and vision.

The new EU-countries already had large reductions since 1990, so the reductions proposed are larger than for the 15 "old" countries from 1990, but smaller from 2000. The scenario is based on technical and economic realistic developments of energy efficiency, renewable energy, interactive ("smart") grids, and social developments. Since the developments are technical and economical feasible, the main question for their realisation is the political will in the 27 EU countries.

The INFORSE vision for the EU is based on a scenario made with INFORSE's spreadsheet tool that describes the possible development of energy flows decade by decade, with 5 year steps.
The current Sustainable Energy Vision for EU-27 is made in 2010 and is based on earlier versions from 2008, 2007 and 2004. Economic assessments are made for some of the EU countries.

Graph: EU-27 phase out of CO2 emissions

The Need to Limit Greenhouse Gas Emissions
As we already experience problems of changing climate, it is no longer possible to avoid harmful climate change; but by reducing emissions we can reduce the frequency of larger climate catastrophes that deprives larger populations of their homes, livelihoods, or even lives. The EU has agreed to reduce global warming to 2'C; but that might no even be enough to avoid major negative climate effects. Reductions of the 27 EU countries of 40% in 2020 and 70% in 2030 on the way to phase out fossil fuels and similar sharp reductions in other countries (developing countries emissions should peak until 2017), will give 70-85% certainty that the global average temperature will remain below 2'C.
Read more about the needs to limit greenhouse gases.

Factor 4 for Energy Efficiency Until 2050, Starting With Ecodesign and then Factor 2 Until 2030
In line with the global vision, the European Vision is based on rapid growth of energy efficiency to reach an average level in 2050 similar to best available technologies today. Most energy consuming equipment will be changed several times until 2050, and if new generations of equipment are made with optimal energy performance, and markets are made to promote the most efficient technology, it will not be a problem to reach today's best available technology, even though the efficiency gains required are very large, - in the order of 4 times, similar to an annual increase of efficiency of over 2% per year from 2010. This will not happen by itself, given that the "natural" technological development has been 1% per year or less. It will require concerted action from all stakeholders involved, but indications are that if the market is large enough for each new generation of efficient equipment, it will be a cost-effective development - the extra equipment costs will be off-set by energy savings. It will also benefit equipment manufacturers that will get better products, also for the world market.

The EU countries are already increasing their energy efficiency with an increasing rate compared with the period before 2005, when the EU Ecodesign Directive entered into force. If the currently planned Ecodesign regulation and energy efficiency labelling is passed, and it is followed by national energy efficiency promotion, the energy efficiency can increase 25% until 2020 from 2005. If the current best available technology on the market becomes the norm by 2030, the energy efficiency increase can be 45% for the sector covered by Ecodesign regulation. If the development continues toward the factor four energy efficiency, by 2040 the energy efficiency increase can be 60% or maybe more.
These increase in energy efficiency do not mean that the consumption is reduced with 25%, 45% or 60%, as the demand for energy services will increase, but substantial energy demand reductions are indeed possible, if ambitious energy efficiency policies are combined with policies to limit the growth of energy services. The sectors covered by Ecodesign is electricity consuming products for household, service sector and to some degree productive sectors. Regulation of energy efficiency in industry, and a higher effective energy price, can lead to the same savings in industry, and even slightly higher savings in industrial heating. For agriculture a slower introduction of energy efficiency is expected.

The Challenge of Reducing Heat Consumption
For buildings, the situation is different from equipment because buildings often have lifetimes of 100 years or more. Most of the houses to be heated in 2050 are probably already built. In this vision the target heat consumption is 66 kWh/m2 as average in 2040. This will require about a 58% reduction compared with year 2000 EU-27 average, but "only" 53% compared with the 2010 level as the specific heat consumption did reduce considerably in the decade since 2000. (in 2000 the EU average heat consumption in dwellings was 158 kWh/m2 according to the Odysee database, while in 2008 it was only 139 kWh/m2, a reduction of 12%. If this is corrected for weather differences between the two years, the reduction was 9%. Therefore we expect an 11% reduction 2000 - 2010). If energy-efficiency measures are included in renovations, such a change is possible. The increase in efficiency is estimated to be 2.5%/year from 2010, on top of the 11% total 2000-2010. This could be realised by:
• raising building-codes to current low-energy housing levels within 1-3 years,
• require that all major renovations include a major energy-renovation,
• increase energy renovations with financing, advice, campaigns, etc., and
• embark on a major program for passive-houses to achieve that the majority of new buildings are built as passive houses, as required before 2020 by the Energy Performance of Building's Directive.

Passive houses" are buildings where internal energy sources and passive solar energy supply close to 100% of the demand for space heating, also called "near zero energy houses".

Efficient Transport
There are very large potentials for energy efficiency in the transport sector. For the first decade the EU agreement to decrease CO2 emissions to 95 g/km in 2020 will increase energy efficiency of new cars with 41% from 2000, where the average emission was 160 g/km. For the car fleet average we therefore expect a 19% reduction 2000 - 2020. From 2020 the vision includes a large-scale shift to electric cars that are 4 times as efficient as cars with combustion engines. After 2030 is also expected a massive shift to hydrogen and hydrogen-electric cars. With the expected transition to electric and hydrogen cars, the energy efficiency increase be 54% until 2030 and 67% by 2040, compared with 2000. The efficiency increase until 2050 will be 75% compared with 2000, so the cars will then be 4 times as efficient. This is made by a combination of the shift to electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, the more efficient technologies, as planned until 2020, and use of break-energy recovering. The biofuel is only expected to play a minor role, fuelling about 3% of the cars in 2050, as it is an inefficient technology similar to traditional petrol-fuelled cars.

For rail and navigation is "only" included increase in efficiency gains of 46%, and 32% respectively, but trains will remain more efficient than cars for both personal and freight transport, and they are expected to take over substantial transport from roads in the vision.

Will Higher Efficiencies Be Possible?
There is not doubt that higher efficiencies will be possible than the factor 2-4 increases included in this vision; but given the current difficulties with realisation of efficiency potentials in many European countries, the efficiency increases proposed in this vision have been limited to the factor 2-4. It is proven that for individual industrial companies and houses, factor 4-10 is possible as increase in efficiency. The challenge is to realise the efficiency on national and international levels.

Decoupling Growth
The growth of energy services, i.e. heated floor space, transported goods and people, energy consuming production, is expected to reach saturation levels during the 50-year period of the vision. This is in line with the perception that the average Western Europeans have reached a sufficient level of material consumption to satisfy needs, and that material growth should gradually be stopped leaving environmental space for the poorer parts of the world. The new EU countries are expected to have higher material growth in the first decades and then gradually lower growth as they approach EU-average. If the gradual reduction of growth of energy services is to be realised, it will require that the growth of energy services does not follow the expected economic growth, i.e. that the economic growth is decoupled from growth in material consumption such as energy services. Alternatively the economic growth should reduce, as it has in recent years. If economic growth continues with 2.5% per year, GDP will double every 30 year, and will have increased 3.4 times in 50 years. A 2.5% economic growth is a normal growth rate that economists typically expect (or hope) for Western European countries. If this level of economic growth is to continue, the challenge for realisation of the sustainable development described with this vision is to triple the economic value expressed as GDP compared with energy consuming structures and activities. Assumed average EU growth in energy services until 2040:

  • Floor space, household: 30% increase 2000 - 2040 with 11% in the first decade and 5%/decade after 2010.
  • Electric appliances in households: higher growth than floor space, i.e. 36% in the period 2000 - 2040
  • Industry: no growth in physical production volume, i.e. 0% in growth 2000 - 2050, but substantial growth in electrification. The value of the products are also expected to grow.
  • Service sector: 55% growth in physical activities 2000 - 2040 and in addition increased electrification, so the energy demand level for electrification will increase 64% in the period. Physical activity level increased about 30% 2000 - 2010.
  • Personal transport: the vision includes a 19% reduction in private car use from 2000 to 2040 and a doubling in train & tram use as well an increase in bus use of 20%. As car use is expected to grow 9% 2000 - 2010, the proposed reduction from 2010 to 2040 is 25%, which is expected to happen gradually from 2020, when the new public transport is available. This is a vision of a more human and sustainable transport.
  • Freight transport: the vision includes a 26% reduction in road freight combined with 2.25 times increase in rail freight from 2000 to 2040. Given the expected increase in road freight of 24% from 2000 to 2010, the reduction with 2010 as basis will be about 40%. In addition to modal shift, this large reduction is expected by applying a real cost on road transport and thereby avoiding long-distance transport of low-value goods where the transport generates little economic or societal benefits.

EU activities secors
Graph: Development of selected activities 2000 - 2040, EU-average

For the 12 "new" EU countries is expected higher growth than for EU average, mainly for the service sector and in road transport. For both these sectors is expected a 2 - 2.5 times increase above the 2000-level of activities, even more for some countries.

The developments of energy services in electricity consumption and transport is below current trends, and require new policies to be realised. For electricity consumption the policies can be to discourage the very inefficient use of direct electric heating, consumer information on total energy demand rather than energy efficiency, and product taxation based on total energy consumption. For transport the measures include, among others, environmental taxes on transport including road pricing and increased petrol taxes, land-use planning to reduce transport, stop of tax breaks to increase transport, stop for subsidizing road construction.
See also INFORSE-Europe Energy Sufficiency Page.

Renewable Energy Targets
The vision follows the target proposed by a large number of NGOs and the European Parliament of 25% renewable energy in 2020. The target for 2030 is 57% and in 2040 above 98%.

EU 27 RE energy supply by 2040
Graph: EU-27 Renewable Energy Growth, Following INFORSE-Euirope's Vision


The growth in windpower have been strong in recent years, with capacities added of about 9000 MW/year in recent years for the EU. This growth is expected to continue with growth of 10000 MW/year until 2020 and then 14,000 MW/year until 2040. The European wind industry has the capacity to develop windpower much faster, but the siting etc. seems to be the limiting factor. Then there will be 460,000 MW of windpower in the EU, including off-shore turbines. This will give a windpower production of of 1150 TWh/year, similar to the potential used in the European Renewable Energy Council's (EREC's) "Rethining2050" report from 2010. The figures correspond well with previous figures from the Windforce'10 report made by European Wind Energy Association, Greenpeace and Forum for Energy & Development and later updated by INFORSE-Europe for Europe. See Windforce-text.

Solar heating as well as solar electricity are expected to play large roles. Solar heating can cover at 10-30% of the heating demand, and more if seasonal storage is introduced. The development is expected to continue from current trends.
The solar heating development is expected to start with the current large expansion that was 2.7 times in the period 2005 - 2010 and then continue with the same increase rate until 2020, when there will be 360 mill. m2 solar collectors. Then we expect a slightly slower large-scale increase leading to 1 billion m2 in 2030 and about 2 billion m2 by 2040 equal to 4.1 m2/person by 2040. The development after 2010 is considerably stronger than forecasted by EREC. The development after 2030 will require some energy storages of 1-3 months in some (Northern) parts of EU, to reach the expected solar coverage of 1/3 of buildings demand for space heating and hot water.

The installed capacity for solar electric generation was 16,000 MW by the end of 2009 and is expected to take off as costs are reaching grid parity in more and more parts of EU. The expectations are for all solar electric capacity (PV and solar thermal electric) the following development:
- 150,000 MW in 2020, 180 TWh,
- 400,000 MW in 2030, 480 TWh, and
- 700,000 MW in 2040, 840 TWh
This is in line with forecasts by EREC in the "Rethining2050" report from 2010.

While the biomass growth has been lower than expected for instance in the EU White Paper for Renewable Energy from 1997, use of solid biomass has grown substantially from a level of 2100 PJ in 2000 for the EU-15, and is expected to grow further to 4100 PJ in 2020 in the EU-15, a limit proposed by the German Advisory Council on Global Change in 2003. The limit for the 12 new countries is set to 1800 PJ, following other estimates, and a total for EU of 5900 PJ.

In addition to solid biomass is included use of biogas of 750 PJ (210 TWh gas), 8 times the level in 2000 for EU-15 and 125 PJ for the 12 "new" countries, in total 875 PJ. The increase in biogas use is based on an estimation of a total biogas potential in EU-15 of 209 TWh from Biogas in Europe: A General Overview by Jens Bo Holm-Nielsen, MSc. & Teodorita AI Seadi, Sc, Southern Danish University.

Energy forests are expected to be used after 2010, in addition to the solid biomass from existing sources, and to reach a level of about 7% of present agricultural land by 2020 and 9% by 2040. This is expected to give a total energy input of 2600 PJ in 2040.

In addition to this is included liquid biofuels, to be used in transportation, construction and other sectors. The use of biofuels is expected to reach about 500 PJ. This can be produced with use of about 7% of the agricultural land extensively, i.e. with crops that also produce fodder and without extra demand for agricultural inputs. This will fuel about 3% of transport demand for land transport, but will provide about 10% of the energy input as biofuel vehicles are much less efficient than electric transport. With this ,the 10% renewables in transport target by 2020 will not be reached with biofuels, but with the expected transition to 10% electric and hydrogen vehicles in 2020, the target can be reached in this way.

For hydropower is expected a 20% growth for EU-15. This is similar to the growth expected in the EU White Paper for Renewable Energy, but it is only expected to be realised by 2020. For the "new" countries is expected about 65% growth in average, including renovation of many smaller hydropower plants that were abandoned 1945-1990. The total potential in the new countries is substantially bigger than that, but many of the proposed large-scale hydropower projects are not included because of their problematic environmental effects.

Geothermal Energy and Others
The use of geothermal energy for heating and electricity is expected to produce 1400 PJ of energy in 2040 for all EU countries, primarily for heating. This is lower than the potential identified by EREC in its "Rethining2050" report from 2010, because in the INFORSE-Europe vision is only included about 1/3 of the additional long-term potential in "Rethinking2050", as this is somewhat undertain, such as the use of heat from hot dry rock.

In addition to geothermal energy that is energy from the earth, comes contributions from heat pumps that collects ambient heat which from the soil, water, air, etc. Heat pumps are are expected to play a role to balance the electricity load, primarily for the EU-15 that have the highest fraction of intermittent electricity production.The heat pumps are expected to collect about 1500 PJ in 2040 including more than 500 PJ for heat pumps in district heating and 600 PJ for heat pumps in dwellings. Heat pumps can give some new flexible electricity demand, as explained below.

Other renewables, such as wave-power can also play a large role in the future, but have not been assessed for this vision. They could give a considerable contribution after 2020.

Nuclear and Fossil Energy
Nuclear energy is expected to be phased out as the current nuclear reactors are stopped because of age, safety problems etc. This is expected to happen mainly 2015-2025. For fossil fuels are expected a gradual phase-out until 2040. A change from coal to gas is expected in the period 2010 - 2020, and a closure of primarily coal fired power plants 2010 - 2030.For space heating is expected a rapid phase out of oil and coal heating followed by a replacement of gas heating with district heating and heat pumps.

Energy Conversion, Hydrogen& Heat Pumps

The energy conversion system will also have to be changed. The electric grid is likely to increase in importance, because electricity will also be used for transport, directly or via conversion to hydrogen, and because it will be used for heating via the use of heat-pumps. Direct electric heating will be phased out. The large dependence on intermittent electricity supply makes it necessary to have flexible electricity consumption and energy storage in some form. It is expected that use of current storage in hydropower, pump-storage etc. combined with more flexible electricity consumption for heat via heat pumps and for hydrogen can provide the necessary regulation until 2025 and longer for the new EU countries. This include combinations of cogeneration (CHP) plants with heat-pumps to supply district heating. When there is over-supply of electricity from solar and wind, the combined CHP+heat pump plants change from producing electricity to consuming electricity, while still giving the heat users the necessary heat, and without loosing efficiency, which would happen if they turned to single production of heat in windy periods. Storage in electric cars and demand side management shall give additional flexibility.
In 2030 and later there is probably need for additional electricity storage, e.g. as chemical storage or compressed air. The fraction of electricity that is intermittent supply (wind & solar) and flexible consumption (heat pumps in district heating systems combined with CHP, hydrogen production, electric cars) is expected to be:
- 2020: Intermittent supply: 23% Flexible use: 3%
- 2030: Intermittent supply: 46% Flexible use: 20%
- 2040: Intermittent supply: 62% Flexible use: 36%

Intelligent energy grids can give further flexibility via demand side management, for instance of various heat pumps.

The use of windpower is expected to be largest in the EU-15 and less in the "new" EU countries, leading to a lower fraction of intermittent supply, and less need for electricity storage.

For some countries the intermittent electricity supply can be managed without new international electricity lines or electricity storages. INFORSE-Europe has proven that this is possible for Denmark (see Danish vision). For other countries different scenarios have chosen either electric storage systems, or increase of international power lines, see German visions described in the Lowcarbon Societies Network Newsletter, October 2010

Gas networks are expected to have decreasing importance. They might play a role for transportation of hydrogen or biogas, but probably not for long-distance transport in 2040.

EU-27 Energy Supply vy 2040
Graph: EU-27 change of Energy Supply, following the Sustainable Energy Vision

Graph: Development of EU-27 electricity production and sources, following the Sustainable Energy Vision

Energy Trade
Energy trade is expected to be much less than today, and if the efficiency potentials are realised EU might not be an energy importer after 2040. Some energy import is expected for some of the new EU countries, but only in the order of 10-15% of today’s level. The import is expected to be mainly electricity and could be covered with electricity import from other EU countries.
See also the Sustainable Energy Visions for Bulgaria, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Romania, and UK.

European Vision 2040 Presentation (new December 2, 2010)
The EU-27 Sustainable Energy Vision - a Transition to 100 % Renewable Energy in the EU until 2040- was presented on December 2, 2010 in Brussels by Gunnar Boye Olesen. Download the presentation at the event's website.

Vision poster pdf file 475 KB

See older sustainable energy vision for EU:
Vision 2050 for EU-25







Return to Sustainable Energy Visions ....................Return to INFORSE-Europe