SPE and LUT university present their 100% renewable scenario to make EU climate neutral by 2050
14 August 2020
Europe can achieve climate neutrality before 2050
Solar Power Europe in collaboration with Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology (Finland) recently published a report about energy transition paths for Europe.
From their joint efforts, they have modelled three scenarios to make Europe climate neutral before 2050 – without resorting to carbon sinks. The three scenarios portray different levels of commitment and pathways to achieve this objective.
The most ambitious scenario, the “Leadership” scenario, realises the climate-neutral target as early as 2040. Whereas the less ambitious “Moderate” scenario aims to fulfill the European Commission’s vision for climate neutrality by 2050 while achieving the zero greenhouse gas emissions and the 2°C Paris Agreement targets. The last scenario, the “Laggard” scenario, fails both of those aspects and the EU will only reach a 62% share of Renewable Energy.
Moreover, a 100% Renewable Energy scenario triggers the sharpest decline in GHG emissions, causing them to drop by over 60% between 1990 and 2030 (Moderate scenario), and down to 0% by 2050 (2040 in the Leadership scenario).
The most cost-effective path to climate-neutrality
The report underlines an interesting point regarding the economics of the energy transition towards climate-neutral solutions: less-ambitious does not mean less expensive. On the contrary, they find that a 100% renewable energy system is the most cost-effective way to attain climate neutrality.
Considering cumulative costs, the Moderate scenario is cheaper; costs being 6% lower than the costs of inadequate action. In the Laggard scenario, Europe reaches only 53% CO2 emission reductions in 2030 and still emits around 800 Mt CO2 per year. From both economic and climate change perspective, the low-ambition pathway is a burden to society as it misses all targets.
As cost-effectiveness makes a strong case to carry out a 100% renewable scenario, investors and energy producers will scrutinise the performance of renewable assets. The use of data and monitoring solutions is of strategic importance for all renewable energy stakeholders that seek to lower costs and increase efficiency.
Modelling the European Integrated energy system for 2050
Solar and wind are the two main pillars supporting the European energy transition. Wind energy represent the largest electricity generation shares up to 2030 due to its higher capacity factors. However, due to cost competitiveness, solar PV will become the dominant source of power after 2040. In both 100% renewable scenarios, solar energy represents over 60% of electricity generation in Europe by 2050.
Storage play a critical role as well. In the bulk of energy storage, batteries back up 25% of EU demand, and they make up 98% of storage systems in the most efficient scenario.
The transport sector is responsible for almost a quarter of European GHG emissions, with only 5% of the energy needed coming from renewable sources. The path to decarbonise transportation goes through electrification for road transportation, and renewable synthetic fuels for aviation and marine areas.
Compared to other sectors, Heat demand will grow the most, pushed by the need for industrial heat processes and space heating. Heat pumps are a core part of a renewable energy system, with 60% of heat generation by 2050.
A 100% renewable story is about creating the right policies and frameworks
A high-rate electrification (85%) is fundamental to achieve a 100% renewable and integrated energy system which enhances sectoral integration and lowers the cost of transition. Such statement translates by a call for policies supporting investments, modernisation, and expansion for Europe’s electricity grids.
Thus, prioritising renewable-based electrification is a key issue to open ways to develop competitive hydrogen solutions.
Paving the path towards a 100% renewable Europe, involves creating the right policies and setting up the appropriate administrative and financing frameworks to enable growth of renewable energies. This also means to review the EU 2030 GHG targets to comply with the Paris Agreement objective of 1.5°C.
Other requirements are to roll-out a solar industrial strategy which will form the cornerstone of electricity generation; accelerate deployment of decentralised flexibility resources. As the need for a skill workforce emerges, Europe will have to develop skills and training programs to leverage the potential of solar jobs.