In fifteen years, almost half of the European electricity consumption will be met by renewable sources. This scenario connected with the commitment to meet “at least 27%” of the total consumption of final energy in 2030 with green energy as European objectives. Not a particularly ambitious target, the result of a compromise between the Commission and the Member States, but it is still a growth path, given that in 2012 the share of renewables was 14%.
Process will ensure this trend with a reduced level of incentives? There is some evidence to be confident. First it must consider the improvement of technologies that will lead to further cost reductions. In some cases, as in photovoltaics, in the next decade it will be possible to imagine a distribution without incentives, largely through mixed systems of solar buffer tank.
A study coordinated by the Imperial College of London, who collaborated GSE, estimated that a solar cover 10% of European demand in 2030 would lead to limited integration costs to the electricity grid, particularly for southern countries. In Italy, a solar power 2.5 times higher than the current would be able to meet 17% of electrical consumption.
In the case of wind power, according to the scenarios of the Global Wind Energy Council, in 2030 the output could grow by 160% in scenario “moderate” and triple in the “advanced”, bringing Europe’s share covered with wind from 8% 2013 about a quarter of the total in 2030.
A recent study by the Fraunhofer Institute has analyzed the evolution of electricity costs in Germany, concluded that both the onshore wind that PV will become competitive with thermal power stations already during the next decade.
Turning to renewable heat, these are still great room for growth with minimal costs and expand both the energy upgrading of existing buildings that push in new buildings. They will find their own space also solar applications, when marginal, as the air conditioning in summer and supplying process heat in industry.
In the field of heating with biomass, new technologies with high yields and a good emission control systems replace older less efficient in terms of energy and environment.
The second- and third-generation biofuels will allow, finally, to use local biomass, and strong innovation already started (the second-generation bioethanol biomethane, use of algae) will promote the achievement of competitiveness with conventional fuels.
More generally, the gap between the increase in fossil fuel prices and the simultaneous reduction of those renewables will provide a driving force to offset the items of slowing down, as the gradual exhaustion of the most productive for the wind farm.
A Europe in search of greater competitiveness and intends to strengthen its industrial base will have to pay particular attention to the technologies. In some sectors the ingenuity and virtuosity of small and medium-sized enterprises will be able to offer products that can compete internationally. In other cases it will be necessary instead a coordinated effort in research and investment to attain the critical mass necessary to continental compare to Asia, the US and Arab countries.
To achieve the targets set for 2030 should be finally considered the role of energy efficiency, which should ensure, according to the impact assessment carried out by the Commission, lower energy consumption by up to 15% compared to 2010. A more moderate energy demand will ease the gradual replacement of fossil fuels with renewables.
This article is an excerpt from the new book by Gianni Silvestrini, “2 ° C. Radical innovations to meet the challenge of climate change and the economy, “Environment Issues, February 2015.