When I was at the Urban Green Expo last fall, the Energy Maha Guru Amory Lovins gave a riveting talk. He said: “The Renewable Revolution has been won. Sorry, if you missed it.” I let out a yell. Well, as I’ve been noting here, this is not mere hyperbole. Here’s more evidence.
In Europe, they’re pushing the envelope. A study out from Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council, EU Energy [R]evolution, says that “…97% of Europe’s electricity and 92% of its total energy use could come from renewables in 2050, cutting CO2 emissions by 95% with no need for nuclear power or carbon capture and storage.” (Suffice it to say that nuclear power and CCS are very serious impediments to the full roll out of clean energy economies.)
There are bottom line considerations: “This study shows that investing in green energy will nudge up the cost of electricity in the short to medium term. But it will save trillions of Euros in fuel costs alone from 2030 and represents an immediate investment in jobs and energy security.” It’s the technology-driven economy, stupid. (Don’t take that personally, if the allusion escapes you. “It’s the economy, stupid.” was a sign pasted up at Bill Clinton’s campaign headquarters in 1992.) The report also has comparisons of this with other EU energy roadmaps.
The Germans are echoing the same message, but there it has an official imprimatur. Jochen Flasbarth, president of the German Federal Environment Agency said recently that “…electricity supply can be generated completely from renewable energies by 2050 and that secure supply can be guaranteed at all times.” This press release about a new study, 100% renewable electricity supply by 2050, underscores the importance of storage and load management, along with energy efficiency and renewables, in such a scenario.
In the UK, they’re talking about ZeroCarbonBritain2030, a framework to eliminate all fossil fuel use in the next 20 years. The report hits all the important high points on climate science, energy security, equity, the built environment, transport, motivation and behavioral change, land use & agriculture, renewables, distributed generation and microgrids, policy and economics, employment, biosequestration and transport biofuels. The ZCB2030 folks also have links to a number of other high-level studies showing the same general results.
Meanwhile, the UK Energy and Climate Secretary, Chris Huhne, the German federal environment minister, Dr. Norbert Röttgen, and the French environment minister, Jean-Louis Borloo, have made quite a splash with their call for a reduction in EU greenhouse gases of 30% from 1990 levels by 2020. The present EU plan is for a 20% reduction (along with a 20% increase in energy efficiency and a 20% share for renewables). The ministers from the EU’s three largest economies, all G7 members, made their joint declaration in an op-ed in the Financial Times yesterday.
The outcry from some European industry representatives was (predictably) loud and angry. This article today at the FT quotes several of these. One persistent argument, voiced again in reaction to the ministers’ op-ed, was that European industries will be unduly burdened by GHG reductions, because competitors in other major economies aren’t being subjected to the same sort of requirements.
On this score, the three ministers wrote that “Some energy-intensive sectors will be exposed to greater costs than the average. We already try to safeguard them through free emissions allowances where necessary, and alternative measures might be needed over time. The real threat that such industries face, though, is not carbon prices but collapsing demand in the European construction and infrastructure markets. One sure way to increase demand for the materials these sectors produce is through incentives to boost investment in large-scale low-carbon infrastructure – a voracious user of steel, cement, aluminium and chemicals. Our industry departments are working to ensure that we manage the transition effectively and maximise opportunities for these sectors.”
Next time, we’ll look at a new study showing just how far along we’ve come on renewables already.