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Smart use of renewable gas could save Europe up to EUR 138 billion annually – new study finds

Renewable gas used in existing gas infrastructure could play an important role in reducing Europe’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to net-zero by mid-century, according to a new study conducted Ecofys and commissioned by the Gas for Climate initiative. Such a reduction is needed to comply with the Paris Agreement to keep global warming well below 2°C and could save Europe EUR 138 billion annually the study suggests.

Initiated mid-2017, the Gas for Climate group consists of seven leading European gas transmission companies; Enagás, Fluxys Belgium, Gasunie, GRTgaz, Open Grid Europe, Snam and TIGF and two renewable gas industry associations, the European Biogas Association (EBA) and Consorzio Italiano Biogas (CIB).

Gas for Climate is committed to achieving net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the EU by 2050 and the group commissioned Netherlands-headed consultants Ecofys, a Navigant company, to prepare a study into the future role of gas in a net-zero emissions energy system.

The annual societal cost savings in the energy system from the use of renewable gas. The study does not estimate a certain consumption level of natural gas with CCS, given high uncertainties related to technical availability (long distance transport and storage within the EU) and societal acceptance. The estimation of cost savings associated with a quantity of 132 billion m3 of natural gas with CCS is included (based on the IEA B2DS scenario extrapolated to 2050) as an illustration that also the use of low carbon gas leads to societal cost savings compared to an energy system without any gas (graphic courtesy Ecofys).

The study, “Gas for Climate: How gas can help to achieve the Paris Agreement target in an affordable way” shows that it is possible to scale up renewable gas production between now and 2050 to more than 120 billion m3 (bcm) annually, including both renewable hydrogen (H2) and biomethane.

This, the study suggests, is possible through the large-scale implementation of sustainable biomethane production produced from a range of agricultural and woody biomass types. A “prudent estimation of a truly sustainable” production potential of biomethane within the EU shows that it is possible to produce at least 98 billion m3, or 1 072 TWh of energy, annually by 2050.

The study highlights an additional potential to produce 24 billion m3 of renewable hydrogen by converting low-cost wind and solar electricity into hydrogen. Using this renewable gas in existing gas infrastructure for the heating of buildings, to produce dispatchable electricity as a complement to wind and solar, and to fuel heavy transport, could save about EUR 138 billion annually by 2050 compared to a future energy system without any gas.

We are committed to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions in the EU by 2050 to meet the Paris Agreement target. Renewable gas used in existing gas infrastructure can play an important role in this. We want to facilitate a large scale-up of EU produced renewable hydrogen and biomethane that is transported, stored and distributed through existing gas infrastructure to be used in our energy system in a smart combination with renewable electricity. This will help Europe to meet the Paris Agreement target at the lowest possible costs while enhancing Europe’s energy security, the CEO’s and signatories of the nine Gas for Climate members jointly declared.

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