At some point, further electrification won’t be cost-effective.

Electricity is already the dominant energy carrier in every European Commission decarbonisation scenario. That does not mean that every single energy use solution should be electric. With declines in the costs of low-carbon generation having consistently beat expectations, it is reasonable to believe that least-cost decarbonisation will entail even more electrification than presently envisaged.

All decarbonisation pathways for the EU already involve considerable electrification. In the European Commission’s 2018 analysis of pathways to 2050, which examined eight different potential scenarios, electricity becomes the dominant carrier in final consumption in every one, including those designed to specially emphasise the use of alternative fuels like hydrogen. In the cost-effective scenario (consistent with a roughly 90% reduction in emissions) electricity goes from making up 22% of final energy consumption in 2015, to close to half of all consumption in 2050. The more ambitions emission reductions scenarios examined involve even more electrification.

Of course, estimating a cost-effective pathway to 2050 is fraught with difficulty and, among other challenges, long-term modelling has consistently underestimated the declines in the cost of low carbon generation. Given that solar PV costs fell between 66-80% between 2010 and 2018, this failing is perhaps understandable. However, it also points to that fact that electrification’s cost-effective contribution to decarbonisation, already acknowledged to be significant, may well be larger than currently envisioned.


European Commission, “IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS IN SUPPORT OF THE COMMISSION COMMUNICATION COM(2018) 773: A Clean Planet for All A European Long-Term Strategic Vision for a Prosperous, Modern, Competitive and Climate Neutral Economy," 72.

IRENA, “Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2018,” 45.