Is a climate-neutral Europe possible by 2050?

August 12, 2020

Solar Power Europe has produced a report together with the University of LUT, that is both optimistic and realistic, forecasting how the Paris Memorandum of Understanding can be achieved, and has drawn up three scenarios: laggard, moderate and leading. The motivation for the report is to show the world that Europe can achieve 100% renewable energy by 2040 if we take a leadership role today.

Economic reward for acting today

The exciting thing about the report is the economic reward, which is also supported by IRENA’s recent report Beyond the crises: renewable energy for a low carbon future. The faster we act now, the more jobs we will create and the greater the savings will be. This means that the decision for 100% renewable energy must be taken not only for political and environmental reasons, but also to create strong and healthy economies. IRENA’s report claims that GDP will grow by 6% every year from 2021-2023, if investments are made in the renewable energy sector. IRENA also mentions that the coronavirus epidemic should be used as an opportunity to refocus on the essentials and thus reap the benefits of acting now.

How do we achieve the targets?

In order to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees, measures are needed that go beyond achieving 100% clean energy supplies. Electrification is a crucial factor in achieving the targets. This must be done in all sectors in order to increase efficiency and allow our systems to have very low energy losses. This is particularly important in the heating and transport industry. The leadership scenario from the Solar Power Report assumes an efficiency of 96% between final energy output and primary energy input. Currently, the levers are around 80% and the industry is experiencing rapid growth. For Europe, a key factor in achieving this figure is to update heating and cooling systems with newer and more efficient technologies. If we have energy systems with a high proportion of renewable energy, we will have even higher conversion efficiency and will be able to provide a wide range of energy services using less primary energy.

Future dependence on solar energy

The report also describes the role of solar energy as absolutely essential. As it is the cheapest source of energy and is highly applicable to many countries and locations. It has been said that 100% renewable Europe is mainly a solar story, as it will account for up to 60% of the energy supply. It is therefore not surprising that the German solar cap of 52 GW was removed a few months ago and that Italy, in the middle of the corona virus, is offering people to install solar panels for free with the eco-bonus. If the solar energy industry achieves an energy share of 60% in 2050, it is estimated that it would create jobs for more than 4 million people in Europe. The sheer volume of solar installations will be at least 7.7 TW (based on 150 GW today!). This means an annual installed capacity of around 250 GW/year – a factor of 10 compared to what was installed in 2019. If regulations and incentives for solar energy are implemented, we can safely say that we are about to enter the decades of photovoltaics!

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