The European Commission has positioned the Green Deal at the center of its policy priorities. The goals have been set: climate-neutrality, zero greenhouse gas emissions, and the complete decarbonization of the energy sector by 2050. The stakes are high, writes SolarPower Europe CEO Walburga Hemetsberger, but thus far Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has made good on her promises.
The announcement of the European Green Deal Investment Plan in January revealed the European Commission’s priorities in mobilizing at least €1 trillion in sustainable investment over the next decade, with the aim of creating a framework to facilitate public and private investments in the service of a climate-neutral, competitive, and inclusive European economy. This package includes a Just Transition Mechanism, which will ensure that no European is left behind during the energy transition. It will provide support – through financing as well as upskilling and reskilling – to workers in former coal regions most affected by the changes. The commission has also presented the EU Climate Law, which aims to implement the goal of climate-neutrality by 2050 into law that is legally binding for all member states. These are all very promising developments.
However, in order to achieve climate-neutrality and comply with the ambitious Paris Agreement target, we must go a step further in our commitment to a clean society and economy: pursuing a European energy system that is entirely based on renewable energy. A 100% renewables-based energy system is the cleanest and most cost-effective scenario for reaching the twin goals of the European Green Deal and the Paris Agreement, and does so without any potentially environmentally harmful tricks, such as carbon sinks and sequestration.
This was the principal finding from Finland’s LUT University and SolarPower Europe’s new study, “100% Renewable Europe: How to make Europe’s energy system climate neutral before 2050,” which modeled a cost-optimal energy transition in Europe. The results of the study indicate that the commission’s climate ambitions can be achieved a decade earlier than the 2050 target.
The first-of-its-kind model mapped a 100% renewable pathway to achieving climate-neutrality for the European energy system. The study presents three transition pathways – low, medium, and high ambition. Perhaps the most surprising finding of the study is the fact that the low-ambition scenario is not only the most environmentally damaging, with the lowest reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, but also the least cost-effective. Indeed, the 100% renewable scenarios (both medium and high ambition) are less environmentally and economically burdensome, resulting in lower per unit energy costs, and achieving the climate-neutrality target.
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