Accelerating the Global Energy Transition to 100% Renewables
By Hans-Josef Fell
The New Year has started with some remarkable news: electricity generation from renewable energy especially wind, have broken records in several European countries. In 2017, British wind farms produced more electricity than coal plants on more than 75% of days. Renewables covered a record 36.1% of total power needs in Germany and wind energy alone covered nearly half of the electricity consumption in Denmark in 2017.
But these records would have been even more impressive, if not for the EU’s faltering support to renewable energy. As investments in renewable energy were booming in China, India, Brazil and Mexico, Europe’s overall investment in green energy was again down 26% in comparison to 2016, according to the latest figures from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).
A recent study by the Energy Watch Group and Lappeenranta University of Technology has showed that a global electricity system fully based on renewable energy is feasible at every hour throughout the year and is more cost effective than the existing system, which is largely based on fossil fuels and nuclear energy.
So a global energy transition to 100% renewable electricity is no longer a question of technical feasibility or economic viability. To achieve it, we need a strong political will and favourable policy measures. Improving political frameworks to unlock renewable energy investment was a topic of the Public-Private Dialogue, which took place on the sidelines of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) General Assembly on January 13-14 in Abu-Dhabi.
As a president of the Energy Watch Group, I have presented our latest policy brief “Policy Frameworks to Achieve 100% Renewable Energy”. The brief summarizes the most successful policy measures and financial instruments, which can ensure a swift deployment of renewables and a secure energy supply, including a feed-in-tariff law, removal of subsidies to fossil fuel and nuclear energy industry and pollution and radioactivity taxes. One of the key instruments proposed by me is a reformed version of the feed-in-tarif – a hybrid renewable power plant remuneration.
Already today, renewable energy sources have achieved cost parity or are even more cost-efficient than fossil fuel and nuclear energy in many parts of the world. And according to the latest IRENA study, from 2020 all renewable energy will be cost-competitive. It forecasts that solar PV costs will halve by 2020 and the best onshore wind and solar PV projects could be delivering electricity for an equivalent of USD 3 cents per kWh, or less within the next two years.
As costs for renewables keep drastically falling, it is no longer only a question of climate protection, but also of a secure energy supply, economic prosperity and jobs. The politicians and investors that do not go along with this wind of change, will see the todays fossil and nuclear investment as the stranded assets in the future.