In Europe, 100 % renewables is feasible by 2050

The “Roadmap 2050” study of the European Climate Foundation, which is supported by actors from conventional energy suppliers, is discussing renewable electricity shares of 60 to 80 %.  This is far from the 100 % renewable supply promoted by the European Renewables Umbrella Organisation’s (EREC) “REthinking 2050” initiative, but a good start for discussion, says Rainer Hinrichs-Rahlwes, the President of the European Renewable Energies Federation (EREF), a member of EREC.

Windblatt: The European Climate Foundation (ECF) in their “Roadmap 2050” study foresees a low carbon supply in 2050 for Europe with 40 % to 60 % of the electricity being produced by nuclear power and coal with carbon capture and storage. This is by no means 100 % renewables, as promoted by the EREC…

Hinrichs-Rahlwes: The discussion about the future of our energy supply is in the works and this is fine! Among the supporters of ECF you can find many important actors from the conventional energy suppliers.

This is why I would prefer to underline that these people are seriously considering renewable shares up to 80 % by 2050, no longer calling such scenarios absurd or utopian – an assessment which only a few years ago would have granted them strong public support. Nowadays, we can prove by a study called “REthinking2050”, done by EREC that 100 % renewables by 2050 is possible and would imply numerous economic and ecological advantages.

But of course the incumbent energy system will continue to claim and underline by more studies that for the near future energy security is impossible without coal and nuclear. Through continued information and good practice examples, in Europe and beyond, we are striving for effective and successful policies towards an energy supply provided completely from renewables.

According to the Renewables Directive, 20 % of the European Union’s final energy consumption in 2020 should be covered by renewable energies. What are the main challenges to reach this target?

Hinrichs-Rahlwes: The target and the directive are important milestones. Until summer, all member states have to elaborate their renewable energy action plans and notify them to the European Commission. Renewable Energy Associations are actively accompanying the implementation of the directive.

We must launch ambitious policies in all member states now, for example feed-in systems like the German EEG for the electricity sector, support systems which are independent from annual budgetary decisions or building obligations for the heating sector, and effective incentives for bio diesel, bioethanol and electric vehicles from renewable sources.

Onshore wind energy is by far the most cost-effective and mature technology among renewable energies. At the same time, on the European level offshore wind power is being increasingly discussed. Why?

Hinrichs-Rahlwes: On the one hand, there is the interest of the oligopolies of the incumbent energy system in claiming that electricity supply can only be secured by big and centralised structures. On the other hand, there is misinformation and prejudice against onshore wind farm.

From past experience, we can see that offshore wind energy is much more complicated and expensive than onshore wind power. Thus, offshore wind farms can only be implemented by big utilities. Opposition to onshore wind farms was mostly overcome, when the
local and regional population was adequately informed and involved.

Thus, in the years to come, onshore wind turbines will continue to deliver the major share of electricity produced by wind energy in Europe.

Is the EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger the right man to promote and implement growth of renewable energies in Europe?

Hinrichs-Rahlwes: Mr. Oettinger knows very well that to a large extent the success of his work will be assessed in the light of clear and visible progress in the deployment of renewable energies in Europe.

In public, he has repeatedly stated his commitment to renewables and his intention to cooperate with the renewable energy industry and associations. We are happy to accept this invitation.$FILE/WB-0210-en.pdf