Europe Requires $32 Trillion of Investment for Net-Zero by 2050
Europe’s annual investment need to rise three-fold this decade compared to 2022-level
Europe will need to invest over $32 trillion in energy and related technologies to achieve a net-zero economy by 2050, according to BloombergNEF (BNEF).
Although Europe has invested $227 billion in the low-carbon energy transition, the average annual investments into clean energy supply, electric vehicles, heat pumps, and sustainable materials need to rise by more than three times this level for the rest of this decade and more than four times in the 2030s to stay on track towards a net-zero economy.
Electric transport and heating
To achieve a net-zero energy economy in Europe, over two-thirds of the required investment is needed for the demand side, emphasizing the need for consumers to embrace clean technologies more rapidly.
The transition requires a substantial investment in electric vehicles, with an estimated $21 trillion allocated from 2022-2050. Heat pumps also require significant investment, totaling $1.4 trillion over the same period.
The switch to electric alternatives presents a significant opportunity for European policymakers to tackle the two biggest challenges of reducing emissions from road transport and heating for buildings.
These sectors contribute almost half of all energy-related CO2 emissions in Europe today. Emissions can be reduced economically by rapidly displacing fossil fuel consumption through a shift to electric alternatives.
Europe needs to plan for an expanded and digitalized grid that can support more renewable energy, electric vehicles, and heat pumps. This means unlocking investments in new grid infrastructure worth $3.8 trillion by 2050 and encouraging flexible consumption patterns.
BNEF’s Net Zero Scenario estimates that investment in new clean power assets in Europe will reach over $3.8 trillion by 2050, with almost 40% of this investment occurring before 2030. This means that annual investment in clean power over the rest of this decade must be twice the levels seen in 2022.
Solar and wind technologies are expected to supply 83% of the generation by 2050. To achieve this, onshore and offshore wind capacity across Europe is set to reach 675 GW by 2030, up from 234 GW in 2022.
Solar capacity is expected to grow to 774 GW by 2030, up from 226 GW currently installed. These variable generation sources will need to be supported by flexible backup generation.
The cheapest mix to provide the necessary backup hour-by-hour will come from batteries, gas plants with carbon capture and storage, and new nuclear plants in the medium term. In the longer term, gas plants fueled with green hydrogen may have a small but important role as production costs for the energy carrier fall.
In Europe, clean power and electrification will reduce energy use for consumer end uses by 30% by 2050 due to the phase-out of inefficient fossil-fuel processes and other efficiency gains. By 2050, electricity will become the largest contributor to final energy use, rising from 20% today to 46%.
However, investing in low-carbon fuels and clean industrial production capacity is also necessary to decarbonize hard-to-abate sectors.
The least-cost approach involves using carbon capture as a bridge to increase the deployment of green hydrogen.
Carbon capture and storage capacity will ramp up quickly, peaking and stabilizing at around 150 million tons annually by the mid-2030s.
Carbon capture and storage will be used in the power sector to provide critical backup and in industries such as cement and petrochemicals, where it can be cheaper and quicker to deploy than electrification.
Low-carbon hydrogen will be used in applications where electrification is unfeasible or uneconomic, such as in zero-carbon steel production, dispatchable power generation, shipping, and aviation.
By 2050, Europe will invest more than $904 billion in hydrogen and carbon capture and storage infrastructure to achieve a net-zero energy system.
BNEF indicates that low-carbon hydrogen production will increase from a low base to around 50 million metric tons by 2050, four times the current total use of hydrogen.
The World Economic Forum recently launched a fundraising vehicle to unlock $3 trillion of financing needed yearly to reach net zero, reverse nature loss, and restore biodiversity by 2050.
The United Nations Climate Change Conference COP27 highlighted the need for global investments of $4 trillion annually in renewable energy until 2030 to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.