By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A green revolution to make EU energy almost totally carbon-free by 2050 would generate 3 trillion euros ($3.9 trillion) in fuel savings, a report commissioned by environmental campaigners said.
The energy shift would already create around half a million extra jobs by 2020, researchers from German aerospace center DLR, which also specializes in energy and transport, found.
The European Union has legislated to ensure that 20 percent of the energy mix is green by 2020, as part of a set of three main environmental goals.
But it has yet to achieve agreement on binding targets beyond 2020, even though non-binding roadmaps have laid out the need for a virtually carbon-free electricity mix by 2050.
Commissioned by Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC), the 2012 Energyevolution report lays out steps towards almost carbon-free energy. They include curbing energy demand through greater efficiency, increasing investment in wind and solar power and phasing out subsidies for carbon-intensive energy, such as coal.
To bring about the energy transformation, it sees a need to invest about 99 billion euros between now and 2050, but it says the financial gains are much greater.
"Because renewable energy has no fuel costs, the fuel cost savings in the Energyevolution scenario reach a total of 3,010 billion euros up to 2050, or 75 billion per year," the report said.
Another benefit is job-creation. The report finds almost totally green energy would lead to half a million extra jobs compared with business as usual, as renewable energy initially demands more workers than carrying on with fossil fuel.
The energy revolution requires political will and the report calls on the European Union to agree new targets beyond the 2020 goals to cut carbon by 20 percent, improve energy efficiency by 20 percent and to draw 20 percent of energy from green sources.
"A continuation of the successful triple targets for 2030 will provide industry certainty, mobilize investment in renewable and energy saving technologies and secure the necessary climate ambition," the report says.
European Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard has repeatedly stated her belief in targets as the way to bring about change, but member states have been haggling over whether there should be another set of three goals, as opposed to just a carbon cutting goal or even no binding targets at all.
The report urges a binding goal of 45 percent renewable energy by 2030 and also wants to raise the 2020 ambitions to introduce a binding 30 percent carbon cut rather than the existing 20 percent cut.
"The expert consensus is that a fundamental shift in the way we consume and generate energy must begin immediately and be well under way within the next 10 years in order to avert the worst impacts of climate change," the report said.
"Each year we emit almost 30 billion metric tons (33 billion tons) of carbon equivalent," the report said further. "We are literally filling up the sky." ($1 = 0.7674 euros)
(Editing by Rex Merrifield)