Gas is important for today’s energy system. Natural gas delivers on average around 25% of total energy consumption in Europe and its use ensures a flexible and reliable supply of electricity and heat. Today, gas supply is predominantly natural gas, but rapid developments in the field of biomethane and hydrogen production are bringing renewable and low carbon gas closer to large-scale application. In addition, renewable gas can achieve negative greenhouse gas emissions when combined with carbon removal, while natural gas can continue to play a role in areas where the application of carbon capture and storage is possible and accepted.
“Renewable and low carbon gas can play an important role to meet the Paris Agreement target”
The Gas for Climate consortium asked Navigant, a leading energy and climate consultancy, to assess the most cost optimall way to fully decarbonise the EU energy system by 2050 and to explore the role and value of gas and its infrastructure to achieve this goal. This is being done by comparing a “minimal gas” scenario with an “optimised gas” scenario. Both the “optimised gas” scenario and the “minimal gas” scenario assume a net zero emissions EU energy system by 2050. The scenarios differ in the extent to which renewable and low carbon gas play a role in the scenarios. In the “optimised gas” scenario, renewable and low carbon gas can be used to its full potential, whereas in the “minimal gas” scenario, renewable and low carbon gas use is limited to those sectors where no alternatives are available.
Using around 2900 TWh or approximately 270 billion cubic metres (natural gas equivalent) of green hydrogen and renewable methane through existing gas infrastructure across the EU saves society €217 billion annually by 2050 compared to an energy system using a minimal amount of gas.
This can be achieved by using cheap renewable electricity to produce hydrogen and by using wastes, residues and sustainable crops to produce biomethane. Farmers in Italy and France started to apply innovative sequential cultivation practices to produce more biomass on existing agricultural land in a sustainable way.
The three main factors that contribute to the energy system costs savings are: (a) In space heating, the relatively higher price of electric heat pumps and additional insulation versus gas boilers or hybrid systems, (b) The need to upgrade electricity infrastructure to withstand conditions of very cold or hot weather as compared to being able to use the existing gas infrastructure to provide flexible energy, (c) The price differential between energy storage options.