Strong sectoral integration required for 100% renewable energy system in Europe

As many EU member states prepare to ease COVID-19 lockdown measures, the policy agenda is now focused on economic stimulus packages to keep European industries on track. It is essential to ensure that this package is a green economic recovery, so as not to lose momentum on the ambitious targets of the European Green Deal.

SolarPower Europe and LUT University’s new report shows that it is entirely possible to achieve a 100% renewables scenario in which Europe meets the climate-neutrality target before 2050. The report also finds that a 100% renewable energy system is the most cost-efficient way to become climate neutral in Europe by 2050, with levelised costs of energy 5-6% lower than in a less ambitious scenario.

Importantly, a 100% renewable energy system requires strong sectoral integration, with efforts needed to increase electrification and battery storage, and to decarbonise the heating and transport sectors. The report shows that the drive towards low-cost electrification and enhanced sectoral integration will result in significant electricity demand growth by 2050, with renewable electricity emerging as the prime energy carrier in future energy systems.

In terms of the heating sector, heat pump technologies will be crucial, in combination with direct electric heating, to take over by 2050, due to the substantial efficiency gains of these electricity-based solutions.

While direct electrification proves to be the most efficient solution to decarbonise road transport, it also provides a base to produce renewable hydrogen as the platform for renewable synthetic fuels (hydrogen, methane, and power-to-liquids) needed for the aviation and marine sectors in the 100% renewables scenarios, which results in nearly two-thirds of final energy demand in that sector along with exports.

Greater electrification means an increased demand for storage, and the study shows that a combination of storage technologies will cover energy demand throughout the transition period, with batteries potentially reaching shares up to 70%. It will take a cross-sectoral dedicated commitment to achieve the ambition of the European Green Deal; together, a climate-neutral Europe is possible.