The Government of Catalonia has approved the Catalonia Energy Outlook 2050 (PROENCAT 2050), the document guiding the country's energy transition towards climate neutrality in the Catalan energy system. According to the study, this challenge can be met if a series of strategies to transform the entire energy field is intensively implemented, ranging from final energy demand to electricity generation and the role of citizens. Estimates suggest that the decarbonisation of the Catalan energy system will require an investment of 84.3 billion euros.
The outlines and main figures for the Catalonia Energy Outlook 2050 have already been announced, and the document is the benchmark for designing and applying the country's energy policies. Greenhouse gas emissions related to the energy cycle currently amount to 34 million tonnes of CO₂, which is 72% of Catalonia's total. In the target scenario, CO₂ emissions related to the energy cycle are reduced to almost zero and can be considered climate neutral, whereas if the measures and strategies proposed in PROENCAT 2050 are not implemented, CO₂ emissions would only fall to 26 million tonnes.
Climate neutrality in the energy cycle is also accompanied by increased energy sovereignty, since in the scenario outlined by PROENCAT 2050, energy dependency on other countries falls from 93.8% to 7.9%, excluding non-energy uses of energy. In economic terms, this reduction in energy dependency would mean a reduction in expenditure from 8.7 billion euros per year to 650 million euros per year.
Based on the energy and environmental objectives established by the European Union and the current regulatory framework, the Outlook models the evolution of energy consumption and production in Catalonia, and on that basis produces a numerical forecast of the supply and demand for energy, and its economic, social and environmental impact. The document also sets out the strategies that must be implemented to achieve the decarbonisation of the energy system.
Energy savings and efficiency – the key areas
The document considers energy savings and efficiency as the key areas for making the transformation of the energy model possible, since a country's energy needs are determined by the demand for goods and services. It says that a sharp reduction in final energy consumption will be necessary in order to achieve decarbonisation of the energy system, and it will have to fall by 30.3% between 2017 and 2050. The transport (-50.6%) and household (-34.2%) sectors will see the greatest decline in energy consumption. The investments needed to achieve this level of energy saving have been estimated at 15 billion euros.
In addition, consumption will increasingly be electric, in order to take advantage of the greater flexibility of the electricity system to introduce renewable energies and its capacity to reduce polluting emissions. Electric mobility, air conditioning of buildings with heat pump systems and the electrification of some industrial processes will contribute to this process. As a result, while the level of electrification of energy demand in 2017 was 24.8%, it is expected to increase to 76.6% by 2050. In fact, demand for electricity is expected to increase by a factor of 2.3 between 2017 and 2050. Estimates suggest that the infrastructure of the electricity grid will require an investment of 13.2 billion euros in order to scale and modernise it properly.
Increased deployment of renewable energies
The deployment of renewable energies must be enhanced in order to meet this energy demand in the cleanest and most sustainable way. The study anticipates that up to 12,000 MW of renewable energy (5,000 MW of wind power and 7,000 MW of photovoltaic energy) will be needed by 2030. The total capacity of renewable energies must increase to almost 62,000 MW by 2050 - 18 times the current installed capacity. Estimates suggest that investments in renewable energies will amount to 51.5 billion euros.
These figures include leveraging the photovoltaic potential of buildings and other man-made spaces. The installation of more than 11,000 MW of photovoltaic installations on buildings and 2,600 MW of photovoltaic energy in other man-made is planned, and this will provide up to 40% of the total solar energy generated in Catalonia. In overall terms, around 500,000 rooftop power installations will come into service by 2050. Many of them will be associated with self-consumption and distributed generation systems, which will enable up to 65% of their full potential to be harnessed. The study says that renewable energies must be implemented while minimising the use of the territory for energy uses, and concludes that Catalonia can cover 97.5% of its primary energy consumption with renewable energies while occupying only 2.5% of the country's area. The ecological footprint associated with the current energy model is equivalent to three times the area of Catalonia.
The Catalonia Energy Outlook 2050 also states that having a 100% renewable electricity sector is not enough to achieve climate neutrality in the field of energy if decisive action is not taken on the demand for energy. It also says that storage systems will be needed to move surplus energy over time, either involving electric batteries, pumping systems or managing hydroelectric power plants with reservoirs.
The Catalonia Energy Outlook 2050 takes the importance of renewable fuels in the energy transition into account for the non-electrical energy sector. The use of biomass, biogas and by-products of renewables are some of the areas that the document says need to be maximised, as they are energies that can be used to replace fossil fuels for thermal uses and to generate manageable electricity. It also calls for the development of renewable hydrogen and the transformation of the refinery and olefins sector, which will transition to being based on the bio-economy and the use of waste and renewable by-products. The investments in renewable energies for thermal uses amount to 4.6 billion euros.