Chief executives from 60 European electricity companies have committed themselves to the task of delivering low-carbon electricity and have called on the European Commission to provide the support necessary to achieving it.

The CEOs – representing companies from 27 – say that they are aiming to achieve a carbon neutral power supply in Europe by 2050 and that they will work for an integrated, cost-effective and reliable electricity market. Their declaration, channelled through electricity association Eurelectric, came on the eve of the European Council in Brussels.

Their declaration says that they need to deploy all economic low carbon technology options, including energy efficiency, nuclear power, renewables and carbon capture and storage (CCS). It drives at the heart of major issues to be discussed at the Council, including a EUR5 billion plan to bolster energy infrastructure in the region and an economic recovery plan.

The CEOs represent companies accounting for around 70 per cent of total European power generation, including EDF, E.On, Iberdrola, ESB, Scottish & Southern, CEZ, EnBW, PPC and Endesa.

“Today the European electricity industry is making a clear commitment to achieving a carbon-neutral sector by mid-century,” said Vattenfall CEO and Eurelectric President Lars G. Josefsson. “At the same time I and my fellow CEOs have reiterated our belief that a competitive functioning market is the best means to deliver on this goal in a cost-effective manner while also ensuring the basic imperative of supply security – i.e. keeping the lights on and delivering reliable power to citizens and industry.”

Crucial to the development of the electricity industry is the creation of a stable, coherent and market-oriented regulatory framework and access to liquid capital markets, say the declaration’s signatories. Eurelectric estimates that the European power sector will require some EUR1.8 trillion in investment in order to replace ageing plant, develop grids, meet new demand and deliver on environmental targets.

The corporate weight behind the declaration will put pressure on EU governments that are bogged down in disputes over the funds and priorities of the Commission’s proposed investment plan. Its proposal, which includes support for new grid connections and pilot CCS plants, will be discussed at the Council alongside the Commission’s Strategic Energy Review.