Photo:örnu Mauring CC BY

The Nordic-Baltic Region can be decarbonised by 2030

Zero carbon emissions by 2030 can be achieved in the electricity, heat and industrial sectors without nuclear power and without CCS, according to new report from AirClim.

Most of the decarbonisation of the eight countries1 can be achieved with wind power and photovoltaic solar power, and improvements in efficiency. The wind and solar capacity needed can be added at a rate similar to that achieved in recent years.

Under this scenario, wind power will increase from 29 TWh in 2014 to 110 TWh in 2030. This is less radical than it looks. Wind power almost trebled between 2007 and 2014, from 9.9 to 29 TWh, which was roughly the required rate.

Solar will grow from 0.7 TWh in 2014 to 35 TWh in 2030. The 2030 target for solar in the NB8 region is less than Germany already has. It will cost us much less to buy and build that solar capacity than it did for Germany.

Cost is not quantified, but cannot be a big issue. Germany went for solar when prices were very much higher than today or tomorrow. Even since Denmark’s solar boom in 2013 prices have dropped substantially, while cost estimates for fossil and nuclear power tend to rise.

Electricity consumption will decrease from 410 TWh in 2014 to 371 TWh in 2030, due to increased efficiency. It actually decreased by 12 TWh in 2007–2014, so improvements will have to be made slightly faster from now on.

While economics and technology look good for electricity and heat, there are some challenges for process industries such as steel, aluminium, lime and cement, but nothing that should not be possible to solve technically within a few years and be implemented by 2030. Possible technologies are outlined. Traditional cement can use upwards of 50 per cent fly ash, slag or volcanic ash, instead of lime, right now. Thomas Beton did so in Germany in 2016. Other types of cement and alternative construction materials can be developed fast, if required. Hydrogen can replace coal in the steel industry, and the Swedish ore and steel industry is working toward that goal.

Capacity is an issue for the power sector. The wind does not always blow, and the sun does not always shine. There is also too much wind or solar sometimes. The difficulties should not be exaggerated. Hydro power is a big source of power in our region and can to a considerable extent balance variable renewable energy. So can, to some extent, biopower and bioheat. “Surplus” electricity, i.e. at very low or negative prices, can be stored either as heat or as hydrogen for steelmaking and other industries, and possibly for vehicles. The most important instrument for balancing variable renewable energy sources is however demand-side management, which can reduce peak consumption and thus cut the need for peak and reserve power plants. The need for some such “peakers” is still foreseen, but they will not be widely used.

The zero-carbon target comes with a limited escape clause. The scenario foresees some remaining fossil fuel use and associated CO2 emissions, but this can be compensated for by exporting electricity to surrounding countries (Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK) where it replaces fossil power for some time, assuming that decarbonisation takes place later there. A net export of 30 TWh of electricity is assumed for 2030.

The scenario implies big change, but big change is always taking place, though often for other reasons than conscious political decisions. The phasing out of nuclear power has been very difficult in Sweden, but happened between 2011 and 2014 in Japan without any political decision. Japan managed without any of its 54 reactors for the whole of 2014, with no severe shortage. Lithuania was 70 per cent dependent on nuclear power until 2010, when it was unceremoniously turned off because it was a condition for Lithuanian EU membership.

A scenario is something that can happen. Whether it will happen or not depends partly on market forces but more on political will and consistency.

Fredrik Lundberg

1 Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia

The report is available in print and at:

See also AirClim report:

“The 10 best climate mitigation measures in Northern Europe”



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