This Study aims to identify key challenges delineating the impacts of carbon neutrality on the gas system. First, it investigates how the role of gas is depicted in existing deep decarbonisation scenarios, and then identifies the potential consequences on the gas network. It focuses on the cases of France and Germany.

Key Messages

  • Deep decarbonisation scenarios suggest that the role of gas in the energy system will drastically change between 2030 and 2050. Unabated natural gas demand should be phased-out and replaced with low-carbon gas (methane or hydrogen). Total volumes of gaseous carriers should decrease; however the gas system could continue to play a key role at moments of high energy demand or low renewable electricity production. As a consequence, the service provided by gas networks will increasingly evolve towards providing capacity for the security of supply in a more integrated and low-carbon energy system
  • Deep decarbonisation scenarios show significant differences between France and Germany, especially with regards to the respective role of gaseous carriers and the contribution of imports to gas supply. However, national decarbonisation scenarios tend to leave out neighbour countries’ role in their own decarbonisation. Integrated, long-term infrastructure planning requires more cooperation between member states regarding their vision of the role of gas and hydrogen in the European energy system.  
  • Deep decarbonisation scenarios consistently show a lack of detail regarding the development of end uses of gas in a climate-neutral energy system while important transformations are taking place, from the development of transport applications to the reduction or phase-out of gas use in buildings. These knowledge gaps need to be addressed for the adequate planning of gas transport, distribution and storage infrastructure.
  • Existing decarbonisation scenarios aiming for net neutrality do not take into account the economic consequences of carbon neutrality on the gas system. Yet these impacts could be significant and involve extra costs for the energy system. Better studying them would help avoid sunken costs for infrastructure assets and slowing down decarbonisation of the energy supply. In particular, long-term scenarios should consider potential stark reductions to imported methane and to gas demand in the distribution network as early as 2030.
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