The Ten-Year Network Development Plans (TYNDP) play a pivotal role in shaping the future of energy systems. These plans, published every two years by the European Network Transmission Operators for Gas (ENTSOG) and Electricity (ENTSO-E), serve as comprehensive roadmaps outlining the development and integration of energy networks. The TYNDP 2024 Scenarios Storyline Report, recently released by ENTSO-E and ENTSOG offers valuable insights into the energy transition strategies for the coming decade. In this article, we’ll delve into the report’s main strengths, shortcomings, and implications.
The TYNDP could be the perfect instrument for aligning energy strategies with sustainability goals and climate imperatives. However, the path dependency driven by vested interests and the consequent resistance to change implies that its maximum potential is not achieved. Nevertheless, one commendable aspect of this year’s TYNDP process is the evident effort to involve diverse stakeholders, reflecting a commitment to transparency and open collaboration. Incorporating a wide range of expertise and perspectives ensures the production of comprehensive scenarios, enhancing decision-making informed by holistic insights, which will hopefully result in a positive impact on these plans in the future.
Peeling back the layers of scenarios
Despite the mandates, the proposed scenarios are not aligned with sustainability and climate action goals of the EU. This is of great concern since all the scenarios exceed the remaining carbon budget and final energy consumption targets, raising questions about their efficacy in addressing climate change. Moreover, despite the stated emphasis on energy efficiency, this driver is not reflected enough in the outcomes of the scenarios, which could benefit from a holistic prioritisation of efficiency across sectors. Finally, the strategy’s reliance on NECPs for its methodology is a noteworthy aspect. This could, in theory, be a valuable bottom-up approach; however, since most Member States had not submitted their drafts when these storylines were created, this could lead to uncertainties and impact the final results.
Lack of ambition around electrification raises eyebrows
Another significant point of contention revolves around the ambition of renewable energy integration. The limited ambition in expanding renewable energy generation and the failure to account for projected electricity demand growth raise doubts about the models’ reliability. To truly embrace a sustainable energy future, robust integration of renewables must be a central pillar of the energy transition strategy. Do these projections possess the robustness needed to guide us toward the sustainable energy era we’re aiming for?
Diverging from Fossil Fuels: A Complex yet Necessary Transition
Furthermore, the reliance on methane imports raises concerns about the EU’s commitment to decarbonisation. While there are reductions in methane imports, the EU should aim to move beyond such imports entirely and prioritise pathways that don’t rely on fossil fuels. The transition to renewable energy forms and direct electrification emerges as a potent solution for lowering gas demand in various sectors. We should strive for a more decisive departure from fossil fuels.
Biomass and Hydrogen: Prospects Under the Microscope
The narrative on biomass highlights its complexity and potential. While biomass is often perceived as carbon-neutral, its entire lifecycle entails potential emissions from energy inputs, land use change, and carbon release upon combustion. Biomass should be reserved for sectors where viable alternatives do not exist and carbon sequestration is possible to maximise its benefits. Prioritising Bio-CCS for industrial applications over power production underscores sustainable alternatives.
Hydrogen, touted as a promising clean energy carrier, is analysed in depth. The choice of hydrogen over more efficient alternatives like heat pumps and electric vehicles warrants scrutiny. Amidst the emphasis on energy efficiency as a foundational principle within these scenarios, the inclusion of hydrogen for household heating and road transport introduces an oxymoronic narrative to these discussions
The significant demand for hydrogen in these scenarios highlights a connection to the constrained ambition regarding the integration of renewable energy. Meeting this heightened demand for hydrogen hinges on a substantial expansion of renewable energy capacity. However, overlooking this crucial aspect could potentially perpetuate our dependence on fossil fuels, putting the progress of the ongoing energy transition at risk.
The consideration of hydrogen imports presents complex challenges, including ensuring exporting countries maintain their decarbonisation efforts. Neglecting this principle could hinder global energy transition pathways, particularly in developing regions. Infrastructure decisions, such as converting LNG terminals to hydrogen terminals, need careful evaluation to avoid locking in fossil fuel usage.
The Omission of Grids
Finally, the absence of grid integration strategies within the scenarios and modelling is evident. This deficiency can present a significant challenge, particularly given the pivotal role that grids are poised to play in shaping the future of energy systems. As we anticipate a substantial integration of renewable energy sources into our energy landscapes, the expansion and enhancement of grid infrastructure become imperative. Consequently, any effective modelling methodology must intricately weave these grid considerations into its modelling and storylines. Therefore, in any future TYNDP work, we strongly urge to include work on electricity grids in the modelling of scenarios.
Paving the Energy Trajectory
In conclusion, the TYNDP 2024 Scenarios Storyline Report provides a valuable snapshot of Europe’s energy transition journey. While commendable strides have been taken to involve stakeholders and emphasise sustainability, certain aspects demand re-evaluation. The scenarios’ alignment with carbon budgets, renewable energy integration, and hydrogen’s role all warrant further scrutiny to ensure a resilient, sustainable, and climate-friendly energy future for Europe and beyond. By addressing these concerns and fostering collaboration, the TYNDP can pave the way for a cleaner and more resilient energy landscape.
You can find our overall reaction to a consultation on the TYNDP Scenarios here.