The potential for low-carbon renewable methane in heating, power, and transport in the European Union

Published: 2018.10.16

Chelsea Baldino, Nikita Pavlenko, and Stephanie Searle, and Adam Christensen

Policymakers throughout the European Union (EU) are evaluating their alternative energy options to help deliver on their air quality and climate change mitigation goals within the transport, stationary heating, and power sectors. One of these alternative energy options is renewable methane. This working paper presents the potential and cost of production for renewable methane in the EU in 2050, building on the work of an upcoming paper assessing the potential for renewable methane for the transport sector in France, Italy, and Spain.

In this study, we estimate the cost-effectiveness of and technical potential for using renewable methane from sustainable feedstocks in the power, heating, and transport sectors in 2050. We also estimate the maximum total potential greenhouse gas (GHG) savings for renewable methane, as well as the GHG savings that could be achieved at realistic levels of policy support.

We find that sustainable renewable methane can make only a small contribution to decarbonizing the EU energy economy, and that it can have a much stronger role in delivering GHG reductions in the power sector compared with heating and transport. We find a total technical potential for renewable methane in the EU in 2050 of 36 billion m3 per year for power generation. Alternatively, the same resource base could supply 29 billion m3 to the heating or transport sectors. These volumes would cover 7% of transport energy demand, 10% of energy demand for heating, and 3% of demand in the electrical generation sector in 2050. However, strong policy support would be needed to overcome the cost challenges of producing renewable methane.