Decarbonising the energy intensive basic materials industry through electrification – Implications for future EU electricity demand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The need for deep decarbonisation in the energy intensive basic materials industry is increasingly recognised. In light of the vast future potential for renewable electricity the implications of electrifying the production of basic materials in the European Union is explored in a what-if thought-experiment. Production of steel, cement, glass, lime, petrochemicals, chlorine and ammonia required 125 TW-hours of electricity and 851 TW-hours of fossil fuels for energetic purposes and 671 TW-hours of fossil fuels as feedstock in 2010. The resulting carbon dioxide emissions were equivalent to 9% of total greenhouse gas emissions in EU28. A complete shift of the energy demand as well as the resource base of feedstocks to electricity would result in an electricity demand of 1713 TW-hours about 1200 TW-hours of which would be for producing hydrogen and hydrocarbons for feedstock and energy purposes. With increased material efficiency and some share of bio-based materials and biofuels the electricity demand can be much lower. Our analysis suggest that electrification of basic materials production is technically possible but could have major implications on how the industry and the electric systems interact. It also entails substantial changes in relative prices for electricity and hydrocarbon fuels.


External organisations
  • Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Energy Systems


  • Basic materials production, Breakthrough technologies, Decarbonisation, Electrification of energy demand, Energy-intensive industry, Scenario analysis
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1623-1631
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Nov 15
Publication categoryResearch