Energy  |  Publications  |  31.10.2012

Energy [R]evolution - a sustainable world energy outlook

Greenpeace, the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC), and the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) published the fourth edition of their European energy outlook. The study has become prestigious over the years and has even been used by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of the UN as a reference scenario. The outlook has a strong focus on the introduction of renewable energy sources (RES), which it states will make up 94% of global electricity generation by 2050. It further outlines the various benefits a strong promotion of RES has in economic, environmental and social terms, and points out the policy exigencies this would imply.

In comparison to the other versions, the latest update of the report makes small amends: firstly, it includes the in-depth study of a bottom-up electrification concept developed in the Indian state of Bihar. The new approach tests the effects and potential of the introduction of new technologies in rural areas with parallel offers of innovative financing. Secondly, the study focuses stronger on the introduction of wind and solar energy, while it reduces the focus on the inclusion of bio-energy significantly due to environmental concerns. Thirdly, a power plant market analysis of the last forty years has been added.

Overall, the report is based on two pillars, which are present in each chapter. Firstly, the report demonstrates the benefits of a radical transition to renewable energies. It does so in a very attractive manner: it juxtaposes two future scenarios at different points in time – one where a strong policy focus has been put on RED (the renewables scenarios), and one where this has not happened and fossil energy sources still constitute an important part of the energy mix up until 2050 (the reference scenarios). The main results of this comparision are:

  • Electricity generation costs will become economically favourable under the Energy [R]evolution scenario by 2025 while by 2050 costs will be significantly lower: about 8 $cents/kWh – or 45% below those in the reference version
  • Long term costs for electricity supply are 22% lower in 2050 than in the reference scenario
  • The total fuel cost savings would cover more than two times the total additional investments compared to the reference scenario.
  • Green revolution would result in the creation of 500,000 new jobs over the next eight years
  • The strong advantage over nuclear energy generation is that it is likely that uranium supplies will be exhausted sometime between 2026 and 2070. Moreover, referring to a recent report of the International Energy Agency (IAE), even a large scale European nuclear project including the construction of thirty-two large reactors would only decrease carbon emissions by 5%.

Secondly, the report links those discoveries to concrete policy exigencies to reach the desirable scenario of Energy [R]evolution:

  • Continue with the triple targets for 2030: commit to legally binding emission reductions of at least 30% by 2020; set a legally binding target of 45% renewable energy for 2030; set a legally binding target for energy savings for 2030.
  • Phase out all subsidies and other support measures for environmentally damaging energy and transport technologies. The total level of the financial advantages received by the nuclear sector is still four times the financial support given to the renewable energy sector, according to the EC.
  • Spending money on carbon capture and storage is diverting funds away from renewable energy and energy savings.
  • The support of renewable energy in the transport sector should focus primarily on the use and development of sustainable renewable energy solutions, including renewable electricity in electric road vehicles and trains.
  • A harmonisation and strengthening of taxes on carbon emissions and energy use should be implemented in all EU member states, in particular for sectors not covered by the EU ETS.
  • Put climate action and sustainable energy at the centre of the EU's Multiannual Financial Framework to allocate the necessary funds to energy system modernisation, energy infrastructure and energy efficiency technology.
  • Create an Industrial Innovation Fund. Energy-intensive industry sectors (such as the steel, cement and paper sector) have a significant unused potential for energy savings of at least 35% and emission reductions of close to 95% by 2050.  A part of the ETS auctioning revenue should go to this Fund.
  • Introduce strict energy efficiency standards for all energy consuming appliances, buildings, and vehicles.
  • Reform the electricity market by guaranteeing priority access to to the grid for renewable power generators.
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