Europe Requires “a massive deployment of wind and solar PV” According to New Research

Scotland has set ambitious climate change targets and is also to host COP26 in 2021 in Glasgow. The targets are to reduce Scotland’s emissions of all greenhouse gases to net-zero by 2045 at the latest, with interim targets for reductions of at least 56% by 2020, 75% by 2030, 90% by 2040.

The means to achieve the targets include  increasing offshore wind capacity to 11 gigawatts (GW) of energy installed by 2030 – enough to power more than eight million homes.

Other measures are more localised such as The Community Climate Asset Fund which provided grants of up to £100,000 for projects supporting community climate action including those that boost energy efficiency in community buildings, and that enabled the purchase of electric bikes and vehicles.

Scotland is also the European Co-Chair of the Under2 Coalition, a network of more than 200 governments set up to drive climate action across the world. The role will last 2 years and is held by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon representing the Scottish Government.

The public health pandemic, Covid19, has shown us that we can do things differently – be it more people working from home, appreciating the natural world or using the car less with an increase in walking and cycling.

Be it a pandemic or the climate emergency – what is clear is that countries have to work together to address global challenges.

At Aarhus University, Denmark, researchers have been looking at Europe’s energy needs. They have modelled the decarbonisation of the sector-coupled European energy system using very high-resolution data.

The researchers conclude that to reach climate-neutrality by 2050 Europe needs solar energy. And lots of it.

The modelling used uninterrupted high-res hourly data for every European and Scandinavian country and network interconnectivity.

Using the university’s supercomputer, PRIME, the researchers modelled how to modify the production of electricity, heating and transport sector energy, so to make sure that there’s enough of everything for every possible hour, even in the coldest weeks of winter.

Assistant Professor Marta Victoria, an expert in photovoltaics (PV) and energy systems at the Department of Engineering, Aarhus University, explained:

“We ask the question of which energy strategy to employ in order to reach the 2050 goal. We have a ‘carbon budget’ – a maximum amount of CO2 we can emit – and how do we make sure, that by 2050 we reach climate-neutrality in the cheapest and most feasible way?

“There are two scenarios: Early and steady or late and rapid. Our model clearly shows that the cost optimised solution is to act now. To be ambitious in the short term. And we find solar energy and onshore and offshore wind to be the cost optimised cornerstone in a fully decarbonised 2050 energy system.”

Assistant Professor Marta Victoria Credit Ida Jensen, AU Photo

Marta Victoria highlights, that both paths require a massive deployment of wind and solar PV during the next 30 years.

The required installation rates are similar to historical maxima making the transition challenging, yet possible.

“It’s not an easy task,” she emphasises:

“In some years, we will have to install more than a 100 Gigawatts of solar PV and wind power, and to achieve full decarbonisation the CO2 prices will have to be a lot higher than today.”

The paper illustrates a slowly inclining CO2 price that maximises around 400 €/ton in the year 2050 – around 20 times higher than today’s prices. Needed, in order to favour the renewable transition, Marta states.

The model also includes hydro power and – to account for so-called ‘nightmare weeks’ – a small amount of gas-based electricity and heating production plus energy storage facilities:

“District heating systems are efficient for very cold and critical periods where electricity demand and heating demand is high, but wind and solar energy production is low. Large hot water tanks discharge during those weeks. This way we make sure, that the future energy systems works for every possible scenario.”

The research was published in Nature Communications.

See also: ReFLEX Orkney ” pioneering an integrated, affordable, low-carbon energy system “

2 replies »

  1. Whilst generally a transition away from fossil fuels is certainly welcome… renewables come with their own burden of side-effects. I would recommend to watch AlJazeera’s documentary about the ‘dark side’ of green energy… just to get an idea how we might only outsource the associated problems. Probably my personal acceptance of the frantic search for new sites for new windfarms in the Northern Isles would be a lot higher if the irony of the situation were not so sad: This (wind) resource rich region is also the region where many are in fuel poverty and where electricity costs dearly. It is easy to dismiss residents’ dismay of new developments as a not-in-my-backyard attitude. But this dismay is fully justified. Our beautiful landscape is being cluttered with huge turbines (I have no problem with the small domestic ones) to feed the grid… basically to support industrial use of energy to produce stuff we do not really need and which often ends up in landfill after a short time of usage.
    It is time to ration energy consumption, allocate budgets to industry within which they will have to become innovative, provide incentives to produce durable products and lengthen the lifespan of these. Perhaps the EU’s idea of a right to repair isn’t such a bad one in this context? Ups… there is Brexit… won’t apply to us then…
    Also, what is more intrusive? Solar panels on roofs or windfarms? Why not simply make sure that new build homes must have panels on the roof and re-roofing also comes with an obligation for installation (unless orientation, angle, shadowing makes it useless)?

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