WWF reiterates push for 100% renewable world by 2050

WWF’s report, "Putting the EU on track for 100% renewable energy", has been released amid the "increasingly active" debate over what should come after the EU’s 20-20-20 energy targets deadline has passed.

In it, the WWF has adapted its 2011 Ecofys Global 2050 Energy Scenario – that renewables can cover 100% of the world’s energy demands by 2050 – to outline what Europe should do to help achieve this goal. "The paper is a timely reminder that the ambitious goal of 100% renewable energy by 2050 is possible, and, in the long term, would save money," states WWF.

In its EU27 2030 Energy Scenario, the organization says investor stability is needed beyond the 2020 climate goals, in light of the time major energy infrastructure developments require. As such, it is calling for greater clarity on renewable energy policy frameworks from the EU. "We must now actively consider how our energy system should develop after 2020, so that current benefits are maximised, not squandered," continues WWF.

Recognizing the need to lay out plans for renewable energy growth beyond 2020, the European Commission already identified three framework options for development last June. "We should continue to develop renewable energy and promote innovative solutions. We have to do it in a cost-efficient way. This means: producing wind and solar power where it makes economic sense and trading it within Europe, as we do for other products and services," stated Energy Commissioner, Günther Oettinger at the time.

Energy savings

Based on research conducted by Ecofys for WWF, in order to secure a 100% renewable energy future by 2050, the EU must, by 2030, make primary energy savings of 38% and increase renewable energy generation by 41%. In doing so, it could cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50%.

To achieve its energy saving goals, which would see energy consumption fall 22% on 2005 levels, WWF explains that energy in both the industrial and construction sectors would have to be made. Suggestions include refurbishing existing industrial plants in the aluminium, cement, steel and paper industries and "stringent" requirements to use best available technology (BAT); and ensuring 75% of Europe’s buildings are retrofitted.

The organization adds that by 2030, renewable energy should cover 41% of the demand of the 27 EU member states, equivalent to 16 exajoules (EJ). Renewable energy growth, coupled with decreased energy use, will contribute to this increase. WWF adds that delivery of renewables should be prioritized "in order of sustainability – solar, wind, water, geothermal, and only then bio-energy under strict conditions."

Overall, WWF forecasts that electricity will command a 65% share of renewables, while heat and fuels will see 35% and 29% respectively. Taking into account grid limitations, it caps the feed in of wind and solar power at an annual average of 45%. However, additional investment could boost this share.

The report recognizes that renewable energy adoption is limited by such factors as availability and system constraints. As such, explains the WWF, "rather than representing the maximum potential to deploy renewable energy, these results represent a scenario result in which the final goal is 100% renewable energy by 2050."

Leading the renewables way, photovoltaic development is expected to reach 0.4 EJ per annum in terms of total electricity supply in 2015, 1.2 EJ in 2020, 1.5 EJ in 2025 and 2.0 EJ in 2030. CSP, meanwhile, is predicted to grow from 0.1 EJ per annum in 2025 to 0.2 EJ in 2030. In total, renewable energy development should reach 7 EJ per annum in 2030, when also taking into account on- and off-shore wind, wave and tidal power, hydropower, geothermal and biomass.

20-20-20

Presenting an argument for the continued development of renewables in the EU, WWF says that by meeting the already agreed upon 20-20-20 climate goals – reducing EU greenhouse gas emissions by 20% from 1990 levels, increasing renewable energy generation to 20% and improving energy efficiency by 20% – would see up to five million jobs created.

It continues, "Cutting overall emissions by 30% instead of 20% would create up to six million new European jobs by 2020. In addition to these significant jobs benefits, by reducing its dependence of fossil fuels the EU would also be able to cut its more than €500 billion annual fossil fuel import bill."

According to a memo issued by Europa’s Commission Communication on renewable energy in 2011, however, the EU’s renewable energy goals for 2010 fell short of expectations, with the union reaching a target of just over 18% renewable energy generation for electricity in 2010, rather than the discussed target of 21%.

While no binding targets were set for renewable energy for 2010, two previous Directives – the 2001 Green Electricity Directive and the 2003 Biofuels Directive – laid down indicative, non-binding targets for both electricity and the transport fuel mix. Despite the figures, the EU was confident that the legally binding 2020 targets would be met.

The EU did say, however that in 2010, greenhouse gas emissions were 15% lower compared to the levels seen in 1990.