Renewable energy can save European economy

To revitalize Europe’s economy renewable energy should be the focal point, an expert told Xinhua in a recent interview. "Renewables could pull the European economy out of its current crisis," said Gus Schellekens, who is the director of sustainability and climate change at PriceWaterHouseCoopers (PWC).

By concentrating on renewables and support early investments, countries can be driven forward and their dependence on struggling industries can be lifted, Schellekens said. Increasingly, European countries support solar power and raise their level of implementing renewables.

In Germany, solar cell prices fell and demands increased because the government decided to subsidize anyone who produces solar power. Now, solar power produces up to a tenth of Germany’s electricity on sunny days, reckons GTM Research, a Boston-based consultancy.

In Italy, high rates for so-called feed-in tariffs, which are given out by Governments and pays people to adopt renewable energy sources, will be trimmed in stages next year.

Financially tottering Greece in collaboration with other Mediterranean leaders and the European Investment bank, recently launched the Mediterranean Climate Change Initiative, which fosters a low carbon development model aiming to accelerate the region’s responses to the impacts of climate change. The plan jointly addresses financial, energy and climate crises.


According to a recently published report by PWC, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the Austria-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and the European Climate Forum, the short-term costs of transforming the power system aren’t as high as previously thought and the costs of individual renewable technologies are continuing to decrease.

Also, Europe and North Africa could obtain all of their electricity from renewable energy by 2050, if the concept is supported by a single European power market united with a similar market in North Africa, the report showed.

A transformation of the power sector based on 100 percent renewable energy would address energy security and supply concerns, while decarbonizing electricity generation and, at the same time, contributing to a substantial reduction in energy poverty, the study said.

But it is still challenging to put in place the measures to conduct the change and to translate high level strategies into nation’s laws. "This can take time, especially in North Africa where there is no body like the European Union Commission," Schellekens said.

In North Africa, countries are at different stages of development and have all put in place their own bilateral arrangements with each other and with other European countries, Schellekens explained. "They will progress as quickly as the governments in these countries feel it is appropriate to do so," he said.

"What you basically need is bringing together the government in the host country with the private sector and the banks," he said. "Only then it makes sense to put this policy into place."

Answering a question what the European Union can learn from green energy championing China, Schellekens praised the country’ managing skills and ability to swiftly deliver green projects.

"Once they have developed the projects and identified the technology, the execution of that project is more tightly managed with the result that the project is delivered far more quickly," he said.

It is probably at lower cost too because it takes less time, he noted. Due to either planning, terms of construction and the capacity of companies to deliver projects, it often takes European businesses many years to conceive, develop and deliver projects, Schellekens explained.

Though plans to use concentrating solar power plants in the Sahara to generate and export electricity have been on the table for years, bringing them about continues to be hindered.

"The worst thing for projects developers and investors is not knowing whether the legal economic business framework of the country will or will not go forward," Schellekens said. Following the economic crisis investors are looking for safer, lower risk opportunities to invest, he noted.

Especially in North Africa, companies flinch to invest due to a less developed legal climate, shaky governments and a dominating fear for terrorist attacks, Schellekens explained.

The real test will be within the next few years. "We’ve seen a lot of talking, strategies and people picking dates in the last few years, but if we want to achieve a radical switch to represent renewable energy electricity in 2050, the bulk of the enabling work needs to happen between 2010 and 2020," Schellekens said.

"We have to be ambitious, if not, it will be difficult to make it happen in the next 30 to 40 years," he noted.