In many of our posts we focused our attention to the Germany and the German energiewende, but off course it is important to also look at the bigger/European picture. Altough the Germans play a leading role in this process is their effort that helpful for the environment if the rest of us just keep on using coal, nuclear energy and other non renewable energy resources? What can we expect in the future and is a 100% renewable energy production actually possible and feasible?
While researching for information about this topic I found a study composed by Greenpeace and the EREC (the European Renewable Energy Council) about a sustainable EU energy future. You can find the study here, link, but seen as it it quite a large document I don’t expect you to read it and will try to explain everything as good as possible in the blog.
The study states that a fundamental shift in the way we generate and consume energy is necessary and must be underway within the next 10 years otherwise we will not be able to avert the effects of climate change. However experts agree that such a switch must happen in a way that economic growth is maintained. They think that the transition can happen in such a way that it achieves a lot of different positive outcomes.
To achieve this there are 5 key principles we have to keep in mind:
• Implement renewable solutions, especially through decentralised energy systems and grid expansions. In stead of producing energy on a central location and transporting it across a whole country, we should evolve to an energy production where power and heat are produced close to the point of final use. This will lower grid loads and energy losses. Nevertheless the grid will have to be expanded to cope with energy production from offshore wind farms and concentrated solar power.
• Respect the natural limits of the environment. This is off course a logic principle, otherwise we wouldn’t want to make the same mistake twice.
• Phase out dirty, unsustainable energy sources. This is a principle we already discussed and agreed upon in one of the previous blogs where we had the debate about nuclear energy.
• Create greater equity in the use of resources. Everybody should have access to energy, so that the benefits of energy services are available for everybody, north and south, rich and poor.
• Decouple economic growth from the consumption of fossil fuels. The experts propose to phase out fossil fuels by the end of this century
With this principles in mind how can we acchieve this goal? The study proposes a 3 step implementation
Step 1: Energy efficiency and equity
The efficiency in the use of energy must be increased and this in three sectors: industry, transport and domestic/business. The basic philosophy is intelligent use, not abstinence. The most important savings would be acchieved by better isolation and building design, super efficient electrical machines and drives, renewable heat production (such as solar collectors) and a reduction in energy consumption by vehicles used for goods and passenger traffic.
Step 2: The renewable energy (r)evolution: decentralised energy and large scale renewables.
Decentralised energy is generated closer to the consumer and uses a local distribution network rather than a high voltage distribution network. Because electricity generation is closer to consumers, any waste heat from for instance combustion processes can be piped to nearby buildings. This means that more of the input energy is used, not just a fraction.
Step 3: optimised integration, renewables 24/7
A complete transformation of the energy system will be necessary to accommodate the significantly higher shares of renewable energy. Nowadays renewable energy is seen as an extra in the energy mix and it has to adapt to the operating conditions of the grid. When this ratio changes and renewable energy becomes more important the grid will have to be adapted to accommodate for this change. One of the solutions will be the use of smart grids where the grid has to be flexible enough to follow the fluctuations of the variable renewable power, for example by adjusting demand via demand-side management and/or deploying storage systems.
What would be the key results?
There is a whole list of expected results given in the study, I will only highlight some of them.
They expect to achieve an energy demand that is 35% lower in 2050 in comparison to today’s energy demand. This shows the amazing potential for improvement there is in the way we use electricity.
Electricity generation of renewables is aimed to reach 1,480 GW by 2050.
The cost of electricity will be slightly higher but this difference will be less than 0.7 €cents/kWh up to 2020 in comparison to the reference scenario (a scenario that only takes in to account the existing international energy and environmental policies, so this is the scenerio that would happen if we wouldn’t change anything) that they use in the study. However if you account for the lower CO2 intensity of the electricity production the costs will be 4.8 €cents/kWh below those in the reference version.
CO2 emissions decrease by 95%, in comparison to a 10% decrease in the reference scenario.
I know that this is only a (very) small summary of the study, but the point I want to make with this blog is that renewable energy is more than an extra in our current energy production. It offers numerous possibility’s and is in fact an evolution that can completely change the way we live and the way we use electricity.
Thank you for reading and if there are things that aren’t clear for you, don’t hesitate to ask!
Picture to answer a question posed in the reply’s