Energy Infrastructures for the Low-Carbon Transformation in Europe

  • Franziska Holz
  • Jonas Egerer
  • Clemens Gerbaulet
  • Pao-Yu Oei
  • Roman Mendelevitch
  • Anne NeumannEmail author
  • Christian von Hirschhausen


Both in the German energiewende and in the European low-carbon energy system transformation, infrastructure is generally considered as a conditio sine qua non: a necessary though not sufficient condition for a low-carbon economy—and one without which energy transformation may fail. At second glance, there may be some doubt as to whether “big infrastructure” is really the appropriate way to approach the low-carbon transformation. The main reason is that in a carbon-intensive energy system, more infrastructure automatically implies more carbon emissions (sometimes called “carbon lock-in”). In this chapter, we analyze the role of physical infrastructure in the European low-carbon transformation, with a special focus on large-scale transmission infrastructure for electricity, natural gas, and CO2. Although these infrastructures can play a certain role, they are not necessarily the critical factors in low-carbon transformation, and often low-cost measures such as improving regulation or tightening access rules are more effective than capital-intensive infrastructure expansion. Section 11.2 suggests that although a majority of authors see infrastructure development as a no-regrets option, there are also arguments against an oversupply of infrastructure. Sections 11.311.5 provide model- and case study-based analyses of different infrastructure sectors. Section 11.3 focuses on electricity transmission and compares the plans for pan-European electricity highways with other, more modest scenarios focusing on domestic upgrades and selected cross-country interconnectors. Section 11.4 is dedicated to natural gas infrastructure: Our results show no evidence of a substantial need for additional pipeline or LNG infrastructure, but rather a need for modest investment, given the diverse and global European supply of natural gas. Our analysis of infrastructure planning for carbon pipelines in Section 11.5 yields an even more striking result: Perhaps not a single cross-border pipeline may be required—except for perhaps a few in the North Sea—simply because the underlying technology, carbon capture, transport, and storage (CCTS), is unlikely to be used at the expected scale. Our conclusion in Section 11.6 is that the way forward is more likely to lie in regional and local cooperation in infrastructure.


Infrastructure low-carbon transformation Carbon lock-in Electricity Natural gas CO2-pipelines Carbon capture Transport and storage (CCTS) Supergrids 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Franziska Holz
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jonas Egerer
    • 3
  • Clemens Gerbaulet
    • 4
    • 1
  • Pao-Yu Oei
    • 5
    • 4
    • 1
  • Roman Mendelevitch
    • 6
    • 1
  • Anne Neumann
    • 7
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christian von Hirschhausen
    • 4
    • 1
  1. 1.DIW BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)TrondheimNorway
  3. 3.Friedrich-Alexander-Universität (FAU)Erlangen, NürnbergGermany
  4. 4.TU BerlinBerlinGermany
  5. 5.Junior Research Group “CoalExit”BerlinGermany
  6. 6.HU BerlinBerlinGermany
  7. 7.University PotsdamPotsdamGermany

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