Renewable energies could realistically cover a share of up to 35 percent of total energy consumption by 2030: This is the result of a recently published study by Fraunhofer ISI for the European Parliament.
The European Union is striving to achieve a share of 27 percent renewable energies (RE) in total energy consumption by 2030. In 2016, this share amounted to around 17 percent as stated in the publication “The State of Renewable Energies in Europe – Edition 2017“.
Together with Enerdata and SQ Consult, the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI analyzed what impacts a higher share of renewable energies in total final energy consumption would have on the economy and society in the study “Renewable Energy Directive Target“. The scientists evaluated more than 30 studies to examine the possibilities for a RE share of 30 to 35 percent.
The most important factors for the calculations are the technology costs, fuel prices and the costs of capital:
- With regard to technology costs, the study’s authors state that the costs for renewable energy technologies are lower today than assumed a few years ago. From this, they conclude that renewable energy sources, and above all wind power, will play a major role in the future energy system, because lower technology costs generally result in rapid and widespread diffusion.
- Low fuel prices result in a lower share of renewable energies. If fuel prices go up, the share of RE does too. Currently, fuel prices are fluctuating strongly so that any prediction here is subject to high uncertainties.
- The level of capital costs influences generation costs and therefore investment choices: High discount rates tend to favor investments in plants with low initial investments, such as natural gas power plants, for instance. If discount rates are low, then the ongoing operating costs are accorded more weight; this benefits plants with low operating costs like solar and wind installations.
Having evaluated all the factors, the study’s authors conclude that it is economically feasible for renewable energies to cover a share of total energy consumption of between 30 and 35 percent by 2030. There would be low, but mostly positive, overall impacts on gross domestic product, employment and health. Positive effects can also be expected with regard to fuel imports and greenhouse gas emissions.
For a RE share of 30 to 35 percent in total final energy consumption, the share of renewable energies in the electricity sector rises to more than 50 percent according to the analyzed studies. This means the electricity system would have to be sufficiently flexible to integrate the rising shares of renewable energies, for instance, via flexible demand and flexible generation and storage systems. A recently published analysis by Fraunhofer ISI in the 17th EurObserv’ER Report shows that the current system is flexible enough for a RE share of almost 30 percent in the electricity sector (2016).