By: Zachary Shahan
It isn’t technically feasible to have renewable energy supply us with 100% of our electricity needs, right? Wrong. Renewable energy is prohibitively expensive, right? Wrong.
A new report just put out this week, Roadmap 2050: a practical guide to a prosperous, low-carbon Europe, gets into technical and economic details surrounding these important issues. The report includes contributions from world leading economists and renewable energy experts, including people from McKinsey, KEMA, Imperial College London and Oxford Economics.
The report claims to be the most comprehensive assessment of the viability of zero carbon power supplies available today (focused on Europe).
European Climate Foundation (ECF) developed this report. Though the organization probably hoped for positive results, it apparently did not expect things to be nearly as positive as they are.
“When the Roadmap 2050 project began it was assumed that high-renewable energy scenarios would be too unstable to provide sufficient reliability, that high-renewable scenarios would be uneconomic and more costly, and that technology breakthroughs would be required to move Europe to a zero-carbon power sector,” senior associate with ECF Matt Phillips said. “Roadmap 2050 has found all of these assertions to be untrue.”
Although most people now assume that fossil fuels are cheaper than renewable energy, ECF found this idea is increasingly outdated. Capital investment may still be more expensive for low carbon energy infrastructure, but when you look at the long term costs, low carbon technology is cheaper.
Energy security, an infrequently discussed topic, was also found to be a huge benefit of a low or zero carbon energy supply.
The report found that up to 100% of Europe’s electricity could come from renewable energy, but there are key obstacles to that still need to be overcome, such as convincing the EU to make energy efficiency more of a priority and rapidly developing a European “smart grid”.
In the end, though, as chief executive of consultancy firm E3G Nick Mabey said, the report shows that “the benefits of the low-carbon pathway far outweigh the challenges.”
Low or zero carbon technology is often associated with helping to address climate change and conserving a livable climate, but there are key economic and security benefits that need to be more commonly associated with it as well.
“A commitment now to a low-carbon transformation of the energy sector is the winning strategy for competitiveness, jobs and prosperity in the UK and Europe, ” he said. “Achieving a minimum 80 per cent CO2e reductions in 2050 based on zero carbon power generation in Europe is technically feasible and makes compelling economic sense.”
Image Credit: Wilfred Knievel via flickr under a CC license