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A cost-effective scenario for Europe to reach climate neutrality

Brussels-based member-led association SolarPower Europe and Finnish university LUT believe that a 100 per cent renewables scenario for Europe is the best option to reach climate neutrality before 2050.

Both organisations underlined how the low ambition pathway in Europe represents a burden for the society, from both a climate change and an economic perspective. The 100 per cent renewable scenarios would result in lower per-unit energy costs, showing that achieving climate neutrality by 2050 is more cost-effective compared to a lower level of ambition.

“A 100 per cent renewable energy system enables the EU to become climate neutral before 2050, complying with the ambitious 1.5°C Paris Agreement target and without resorting to carbon sinks,” said Aristotelis Chantavas, President of SolarPower Europe. “This Leadership scenario will also trigger the sharpest decline in GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions, down to zero in 2040. It also highlights the pivotal role of electrification to achieve a 100 per cent renewable-based energy system, which will generate significant system efficiency gains and facilitate sectoral integration. With this cutting-edge report, we aim to contribute a new perspective to the discussion on how to enable a true European Green Deal.”

While the share of solar in the European Union’s electricity supply is currently less than 5 per cent, the technology is the most versatile and often lowest-cost clean power generation source, with a rapid cost reduction trajectory. Overall, Michael Schmela, Executive Advisor and Head of Market Intelligence at SolarPower Europe explained that solar power is set to generate more than 60 per cent of European electricity by 2050, a number that must be coupled with a high rate of electrification and sectoral integration, which is essential to achieving a 100 per cent renewable and integrated energy system.

Europe is one of the most interconnected regions in the world, with robust energy infrastructure connecting the different Member States. As far as renewable energy resources are concerned, Europe offers a good mix of significant wind potential in the Northern and Western regions, complemented with excellent solar potential in its Southern regions. Other forms of renewable resources, such as hydropower and biomass, are also well distributed throughout the continent, which influence the regional energy mix of the various countries within Europe.

Central and Eastern Europe could play a major role in the production of electricity from solar energy. In a moderate scenario, Europe would produce 9,944 gigawatts (GW) of solar power in 2050, also thanks to countries in the Balkan Peninsula, for example, that would generate 280 GW. Ukraine and Turkey could be key solar energy producers, with 851 GW and 1,728 GW respectively.

“Electrolysers for hydrogen production are also a crucial technology for this scenario, as, from 2030 onwards, renewable hydrogen will contribute to the full decarbonisation of the heat and transport sectors, becoming Europe’s second key energy carrier,” Mr Schmela added. “Further, electricity storage is increasingly important in providing an uninterrupted energy supply, with batteries set to contribute up to 70 per cent of storage.”

When regards to the prices, the average Levelised Cost Of Electricity (LCOE) generation will follow the distribution pattern of utility-scale solar systems, which are capable of generating power at the lowest costs under the right conditions. That is primarily a question of available sun hours, which are highest in Southern Europe. The average LCOEs for 100 per cent renewable scenarios is around 39.3 euros per megawatts/hour (MWh). However, there will be slight regional differences with the highest average LCOE in the Czech Republic and Slovakia region stemming from the significant stranded investments in nuclear power plants, which still add to costs without electricity supply and a high reliance on imports.

As a first step, Aurélie Beauvais, Policy Director of SolarPower Europe suggested the EU policymakers enshrine the objective of climate neutrality into law and review the EU 2030 GHG target to comply with the 1.5°C Paris Agreement.

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