RE-thinking 1

A 100% Renewable
Energy Vision for
the European Union
RE-thinking
Executive Summary
E U R O P E A N R E N E W A B L E E N E R G Y C O U N C I L
Executive summary.indd 1 7/04/10 17:39
RE-thinking 2
Introduction
A
T
Europe’s demand for energy is increasing in an environment of high and unstable energy prices. Greenhouse gas
emissions are rising and the energy sector is one of the main emitters of greenhouse gases. Natural reserves of fossil
fuels such as oil and gas are concentrated in just a few supplier countries around the world. Climate change along with
an increasing dependency on energy imports are only a few of the risks the European economy is facing today. The EU
now needs the courage to lead the way out of this climate and energy dilemma with a clear commitment to a 100%
renewable energy future.
RE-thinking 2050 presents a pathway towards a 100% renewable energy system for the EU in 2050, examining the
effects on Europe’s energy supply system and on CO2 emissions, while at the same time portraying the economic,
environmental and social benefits of such a system. Moreover, it provides policy recommendations for what is needed
to fully exploit the EU´s vast renewable energy potential.
RE-thinking 2050: 100 % RES Contribution to Final Energy Consumption
RE-thinking 2050 gives an outlook of the RES (renewable energy sources) industry, looking into how the different
renewable energy technologies can contribute to a fully sustainable energy supply by 2050 provided there is strong
political, public and economic support for all renewable energy technologies.
Figure 1 Contribution of Renewable Energy Technologies to Final Energy Consumption
0
200
400
600
800
1,000
1,200
1,400
2030 2020 2050
Q Non RES
Q Ocean
Q CSP
Q Solar Therma
Q Geothermal
Q Bioenergy
Q PV
Q Hydro
Q Wind
0
W
R
H
Source: EREC
The largest increase towards 2050 both in terms of energy output and contribution to final energy is projected for
renewable electricity, in particular for pure power options such as wind and photovoltaics (PV). The share of renewable
electricity in total final energy demand increases from 10% in 2020 to 18% in 2030 and finally to 41% by 2050.
E
S
Executive summary.indd 2 7/04/10 17:39
RE-thinking 3
As a sector, heating and cooling remains the largest contributor to final energy demand in 2050. The renewable heating
and cooling market, comprising residential and industrial biomass as well as solar thermal and geothermal applications,
is predicted to take off fast. Together, they hold a share of about 21% and 45% of total final energy consumption in
2030 and 2050 respectively.
In terms of growth rate, renewable energy in the transport sector can look forward to a significant increase, especially
in the post-2020 years when advanced conversion technologies are ready to enter the market at a significant scale.
The share of renewable transport fuels in overall final energy consumption increases from 3% in 2020 to 4% in 2030.
In 2050 their share is likely to account for 10%.
Overall, RE-thinking 2050 shows that even without an aggressive energy efficiency policy, the EU´s could achieve
an effective share of 96% renewable energy in final energy consumption by 2050. Uncertainties remain, however,
regarding aviation and inland navigation. In the report it is assumed that those transport modes might still use fossil
fuel in 2050. No assumptions are hence made on the use of biofuels in shipping or aircrafts, although they are already
contributing at a pilot stage today.
t
g
Economic, Environmental and Social Benefits of a 100 % RES Supply
Economic Benefits
Security of Energy Supply and Avoided Fuel Costs
By 2020, the EU can reduce its annual fossil fuel demand by over 290 Mtoe, reaching almost 500 Mtoe by 2030 and
more than 1,000 Mtoe by 2050. Hence, renewable energy will avoid fossil fuel costs of about €158 billion in 2020,
€325 billion in 2030 and about €1,090 billion (or more than €1 trillion) in 2050 (Figure 2).
1
The calculation is based on
an exchange rate of $1.35/€.
Figure 2 Avoided Fuel Costs from RES Deployment (2020-2030-2050)
0
150
300
450
600
750
900
1,050
1,200
2030 2020 2050
C

b
i
l
l
i
o
n
Source: EREC
1 Using a conversion factor of 1 tonne of oil equivalent (toe) = 7.33 barrels. Hence, with an oil price of $100, for instance, one toe costs $733. The underlying oil price
assumption is for 2020 $100/barrel, for 2030 $120 and for 2050 $200/barrel.
Executive summary.indd 3 7/04/10 17:39
RE-thinking 4
Capital Investments
Reaching a share of 100% renewable energy in the EU by 2050 will certainly require additional investments. The size of
such investments will depend on the implementation of energy saving and energy efficiency measures, the technology
choices, decommissioning rates and the degree of competition in the energy sector as such.
When developing long-term scenarios spanning periods of several decades, the dynamic trend of cost developments
over time plays a crucial role in identifying strategies. To analyse the long-term capital investment needs up to 2050,
learning rates for each technology have been applied which reflect the correlation between cumulative production
volumes of a certain technology and a reduction in its costs.
Figure 3 Total Cumulative Investments (2020-2030-2050)
0
500
1000
1500
2000
2500
3000
3500
4000
2030 2020 2050
Q Biofuels
Q Geothermal
Q Solar Thermal
Q Bioheat
Q Ocean
Q CSP
Q Geothermal Electricity
Q Bioelectricity
Q PV
Q Hydropower
Q Wind
C

b
i
l
l
i
o
n
Source: EREC
By 2020, total cumulative renewable energy investments will be €963 billion going up to about €1,620 billion by 2030.
By 2050, total cumulative renewable energy investments will reach more than €2,800 billion. The important fact to note
is that higher upfront investment needs for renewable energy do pay off in the long-run, and for society at large. The
capital investment cost will be outweighed by the avoided fossil fuel and CO2 costs.
It is important to note that the investments done before 2020 and then up to 2030 will have an impact on the years to
come as a renewable energy unit installed in a given year will obviously deliver beyond the year it is installed. Hence,
expressed in additional cumulative capital requirements, these will increase from about €660 billion in 2030 to more
than €1,180 billion in 2050.
T
Executive summary.indd 4 7/04/10 17:39
RE-thinking 5
Environmental Benefits
Renewable energy deployment by 2020 will reduce annual energy related CO2 emissions by about 1,200 Mt against
1990 emissions, and further by about 2,000 Mt in 2030 and 3,800 Mt in 2050. This equals a CO2 reduction per annum
of 30% in 2020 and about 50% in 2030. By 2050 the EU would be able to reduce its energy related CO2 emissions by
more than 90% compared to 1990 emissions.
The long-term climate protection goal of reducing the EU´s emissions by at least 80% domestically should be achieved
as efficiently as possible, i.e. at the lowest possible cost. The CO2 costs avoided due to the use of a particular
technology are often consulted to gauge the efficiency of reduction measures.
Considering a CO2–price of €41/t in 2020, the additional total CO2 benefit can be calculated as being about €492 billion
(Figure 4). By 2030, assuming a CO2–price of €45/t, the benefit would already account for €900 billion, culminating in
2050 at €3,800 billion (or €3.8 trillion), considering a carbon price per ton of €100 in 2050.
Figure 4 C02 Costs Avoided (2020-2030-2050)
0
500
1,000
1,500
2,000
2,500
3,000
3,500
4,000
2030 2020 2050
C

b
i
l
l
i
o
n
Source: EREC
Hence, the CO2 costs avoided in 2050 due to the deployment of renewable energy technologies already outweigh the
cumulative investment of €2,800 billion needed to reach 100% renewable energy in 2050. The economic benefit of
investing in renewable energy would therefore amount to €1,000 billion. When taking into account the avoided fossil
fuel costs the economic benefit would increase to €2,090 billion in 2050. Therefore, higher upfront investment needs
do certainly pay off in the long-run for European citizens.
Executive summary.indd 5 7/04/10 17:39
RE-thinking 6
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Social Benefits
Nothing is simple, not least changing our energy system. As the social impact is a core element of moving towards
a fully sustainable energy system a strong collaboration between the renewable energy industry and governments as
well as local authorities and civil society is needed.
One of the core benefits inherent to an increased deployment of renewable energy technologies is the effect on
employment. Renewable energy has a crucial role to play in a sustainable 21
st
century economy through job creation.
By the end of 2009, the renewable energy industry employed over 550,000 people in the European Union. Considering
that the pathway set out in RE-thinking 2050 is followed, the renewable energy sector will employ a total of more than
2.7 million people in 2020 and about 4.4 million in 2030 in the EU alone. This constitutes an average annual increase
of gross employment of 36% and 30% respectively compared to 2009. By 2050, employment in the renewable energy
sector is expected to exceed the mark of six million, bringing 6.1 million people into work (Figure 5).
Figure 5 Gross Employment in the Renewable Energy Sector (2020-2030-2050)
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
2030 2020 2050
Q Ocean
Q CSP
Q Solar Thermal
Q Geothermal
Q Bioenergy
Q PV
Q Hydro
Q Wind
E
m
p
l
o
y
e
e
s

(
m
i
l
l
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n
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Source: EREC
Furthermore, the potential of renewable energy, as a new industry, to involve the wider public is huge, and by so doing,
enriching the knowledge base, and providing energy consumers with the basis on which to build energy responsibility.
Last but not least, debates on social acceptance are not new to the energy sector, however, the issue needs to be
urgently addressed if policies are to be implemented successfully, as it would be a mistake to assume that as a natural
result in the heightened interest in Climate Change, the renewable energy industry can take public support for granted.
Executive summary.indd 6 7/04/10 17:39
RE-thinking 7
Policy Recommendations – Inventing Tomorrow Today
Continuing on today’s energy path without any change in policies would not only mean that the pressing issue of
climate change is not addressed, but also that our dependency on fossil fuels is set to increase, and fast, and that we
would be bound to unpredictable energy prices, all of which would result in detrimental impacts on Europe’s economy
and in energy insecurity.
The only way to avoid the ever increasing energy dependence of the European Union is to develop the abundant
renewable energy potential of all EU Member States. Europe should lead the way with a clear commitment to a 100%
renewable energy future by 2050.
As RE-thinking 2050 clearly outlines, it is not a matter of availability of technologies. It is a matter of political will and of
setting the course today for a sustainable energy future tomorrow. A 100% renewable energy supply for Europe will
require paramount changes both in terms of energy production and consumption as well as concerted efforts at all
levels – local, regional, national and European.
In order to achieve a 100 % renewable energy supply, a clear-cut and consistent mix of measures must be put in place
along the following lines:
• Supporting the transition towards a 100% renewable energy economy through all EU policy areas
• Less is more – an ambitious energy efficiency and energy savings framework
• Effective and full implementation of the new RES Directive (2009) in all EU-27 Member States
• Binding renewable energy targets for 2030
• Full liberalisation of the energy market
• Phasing out all subsidies for fossil and nuclear energy and introducing an EU-wide carbon tax
• Electricity infrastructure – moving towards SuperSmartGrids
• Hybrid energy solutions and virtual power plants
• Heating and cooling – measures to awaken the sleeping giant
• New transport solutions
• Smart-Energy Cities 2050
• Smart-Energy Buildings 2050 – constructing a better climate
Be part of a sustainable energy future –
download the full report of RE-thinking 2050 & declare your support at:
www.rethinking2050.eu

EREC, the European Renewable Energy Council, is the umbrella organisation of the major European renewable
energy industry, trade and research associations active in the field of photovoltaics, small hydropower, solar thermal,
bioenergy, ocean & marine, geothermal, wind energy, and solar thermal electricity. It represents an industry with an
annual turnover of more than €70 billion and more than 550,000 employees.
Executive summary.indd 7 7/04/10 17:39
Be part of a sustainable energy future – support 100% renewable energy:
www.rethinking2050.eu
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Executive summary.indd 8 7/04/10 17:39

it provides policy recommendations for what is needed to fully exploit the EU´s vast renewable energy potential.400 Non RES Ocean CSP Solar Therma Geothermal Bioenergy PV Hydro Wind 1. 2 RE-thinking Executive summary. public and economic support for all renewable energy technologies. Moreover.000 800 600 400 200 0 2020 2030 2050 Source: EREC The largest increase towards 2050 both in terms of energy output and contribution to final energy is projected for renewable electricity. RE-thinking 2050 presents a pathway towards a 100% renewable energy system for the EU in 2050. E S Figure 1 Contribution of Renewable Energy Technologies to Final Energy Consumption 1. Greenhouse gas emissions are rising and the energy sector is one of the main emitters of greenhouse gases.indd 2 7/04/10 17:39 . Natural reserves of fossil fuels such as oil and gas are concentrated in just a few supplier countries around the world. Climate change along with an increasing dependency on energy imports are only a few of the risks the European economy is facing today.200 1. looking into how the different renewable energy technologies can contribute to a fully sustainable energy supply by 2050 provided there is strong political. while at the same time portraying the economic. environmental and social benefits of such a system. The share of renewable electricity in total final energy demand increases from 10% in 2020 to 18% in 2030 and finally to 41% by 2050.Introduction Europe’s demand for energy is increasing in an environment of high and unstable energy prices. RE-thinking 2050: 100 % RES Contribution to Final Energy Consumption RE-thinking 2050 gives an outlook of the RES (renewable energy sources) industry. The EU now needs the courage to lead the way out of this climate and energy dilemma with a clear commitment to a 100% renewable energy future. in particular for pure power options such as wind and photovoltaics (PV). examining the effects on Europe’s energy supply system and on CO2 emissions.

reaching almost 500 Mtoe by 2030 and more than 1.050 900 750 600 450 300 150 0 2020 2030 2050 Source: EREC 1 Using a conversion factor of 1 tonne of oil equivalent (toe) = 7. Environmental and Social Benefits of a 100 % RES Supply Economic Benefits Security of Energy Supply and Avoided Fuel Costs By 2020. Uncertainties remain. No assumptions are hence made on the use of biofuels in shipping or aircrafts. renewable energy will avoid fossil fuel costs of about €158 billion in 2020. the EU can reduce its annual fossil fuel demand by over 290 Mtoe. The renewable heating and cooling market. for 2030 $120 and for 2050 $200/barrel. heating and cooling remains the largest contributor to final energy demand in 2050. Overall. €325 billion in 2030 and about €1. Economic. is predicted to take off fast. In 2050 their share is likely to account for 10%.As a sector.090 billion (or more than €1 trillion) in 2050 (Figure 2). In terms of growth rate.35/€. comprising residential and industrial biomass as well as solar thermal and geothermal applications.1 The calculation is based on an exchange rate of $1. renewable energy in the transport sector can look forward to a significant increase. although they are already contributing at a pilot stage today. the EU´s could achieve an effective share of 96% renewable energy in final energy consumption by 2050. regarding aviation and inland navigation. Together. Hence. with an oil price of $100. The underlying oil price assumption is for 2020 $100/barrel. RE-thinking 2050 shows that even without an aggressive energy efficiency policy. RE-thinking 3 Executive summary. especially in the post-2020 years when advanced conversion technologies are ready to enter the market at a significant scale. however.indd 3 7/04/10 17:39 . one toe costs $733.000 Mtoe by 2050. Hence. they hold a share of about 21% and 45% of total final energy consumption in 2030 and 2050 respectively.200 1.33 barrels. for instance. In the report it is assumed that those transport modes might still use fossil fuel in 2050. Figure 2 Avoided Fuel Costs from RES Deployment (2020-2030-2050) t g 1. The share of renewable transport fuels in overall final energy consumption increases from 3% in 2020 to 4% in 2030.

The capital investment cost will be outweighed by the avoided fossil fuel and CO2 costs. 4 RE-thinking Executive summary.180 billion in 2050. and for society at large. Figure 3 Total Cumulative Investments (2020-2030-2050) 4000 T Biofuels Geothermal Solar Thermal Bioheat Ocean CSP Geothermal Electricity Bioelectricity PV Hydropower Wind 3500 3000 2500 2000 1500 1000 500 0 2020 2030 2050 Source: EREC By 2020. total cumulative renewable energy investments will reach more than €2.800 billion. When developing long-term scenarios spanning periods of several decades.Capital Investments Reaching a share of 100% renewable energy in the EU by 2050 will certainly require additional investments. expressed in additional cumulative capital requirements. It is important to note that the investments done before 2020 and then up to 2030 will have an impact on the years to come as a renewable energy unit installed in a given year will obviously deliver beyond the year it is installed. the dynamic trend of cost developments over time plays a crucial role in identifying strategies. The size of such investments will depend on the implementation of energy saving and energy efficiency measures.indd 4 7/04/10 17:39 . decommissioning rates and the degree of competition in the energy sector as such. learning rates for each technology have been applied which reflect the correlation between cumulative production volumes of a certain technology and a reduction in its costs. these will increase from about €660 billion in 2030 to more than €1. By 2050. the technology choices. Hence. total cumulative renewable energy investments will be €963 billion going up to about €1.620 billion by 2030. The important fact to note is that higher upfront investment needs for renewable energy do pay off in the long-run. To analyse the long-term capital investment needs up to 2050.

e.000 3. the additional total CO2 benefit can be calculated as being about €492 billion (Figure 4). Therefore.800 billion needed to reach 100% renewable energy in 2050. Considering a CO2–price of €41/t in 2020.000 billion. culminating in 2050 at €3. considering a carbon price per ton of €100 in 2050.000 Mt in 2030 and 3. By 2050 the EU would be able to reduce its energy related CO2 emissions by more than 90% compared to 1990 emissions. higher upfront investment needs do certainly pay off in the long-run for European citizens. and further by about 2. Figure 4 C02 Costs Avoided (2020-2030-2050) 4. When taking into account the avoided fossil fuel costs the economic benefit would increase to €2.Environmental Benefits Renewable energy deployment by 2020 will reduce annual energy related CO2 emissions by about 1. The economic benefit of investing in renewable energy would therefore amount to €1.800 Mt in 2050.000 2.000 1. the benefit would already account for €900 billion. The long-term climate protection goal of reducing the EU´s emissions by at least 80% domestically should be achieved as efficiently as possible. The CO2 costs avoided due to the use of a particular technology are often consulted to gauge the efficiency of reduction measures. By 2030.800 billion (or €3. RE-thinking 5 Executive summary.500 1.indd 5 7/04/10 17:39 . at the lowest possible cost. assuming a CO2–price of €45/t.500 2.090 billion in 2050.8 trillion).200 Mt against 1990 emissions. This equals a CO2 reduction per annum of 30% in 2020 and about 50% in 2030. i.000 500 0 2020 2030 2050 Source: EREC Hence.500 3. the CO2 costs avoided in 2050 due to the deployment of renewable energy technologies already outweigh the cumulative investment of €2.

debates on social acceptance are not new to the energy sector. the renewable energy sector will employ a total of more than 2. to involve the wider public is huge. the renewable energy industry employed over 550. and providing energy consumers with the basis on which to build energy responsibility. Last but not least. the issue needs to be urgently addressed if policies are to be implemented successfully.Social Benefits Nothing is simple.4 million in 2030 in the EU alone.000 people in the European Union.7 million people in 2020 and about 4. This constitutes an average annual increase of gross employment of 36% and 30% respectively compared to 2009. not least changing our energy system. By 2050. as it would be a mistake to assume that as a natural result in the heightened interest in Climate Change. bringing 6. Renewable energy has a crucial role to play in a sustainable 21st century economy through job creation. ER ene bio ann 6 RE-thinking Executive summary. however. As the social impact is a core element of moving towards a fully sustainable energy system a strong collaboration between the renewable energy industry and governments as well as local authorities and civil society is needed. By the end of 2009. Figure 5 Gross Employment in the Renewable Energy Sector (2020-2030-2050) 8 Po Co clim wo and The ren ren As set req lev In o alo Ocean CSP Solar Thermal Geothermal Bioenergy PV Hydro Wind 7 6 5 4 3 2 • • • • • • • • • • • • 1 0 2020 2030 2050 Source: EREC Furthermore.1 million people into work (Figure 5).indd 6 7/04/10 17:39 . Considering that the pathway set out in RE-thinking 2050 is followed. One of the core benefits inherent to an increased deployment of renewable energy technologies is the effect on employment. as a new industry. the renewable energy industry can take public support for granted. employment in the renewable energy sector is expected to exceed the mark of six million. enriching the knowledge base. and by so doing. the potential of renewable energy.

the European Renewable Energy Council. it is not a matter of availability of technologies.indd 7 7/04/10 17:39 . is the umbrella organisation of the major European renewable energy industry. national and European. small hydropower. solar thermal. The only way to avoid the ever increasing energy dependence of the European Union is to develop the abundant renewable energy potential of all EU Member States.Policy Recommendations – Inventing Tomorrow Today Continuing on today’s energy path without any change in policies would not only mean that the pressing issue of climate change is not addressed. As RE-thinking 2050 clearly outlines. and fast. geothermal. A 100% renewable energy supply for Europe will require paramount changes both in terms of energy production and consumption as well as concerted efforts at all levels – local. It is a matter of political will and of setting the course today for a sustainable energy future tomorrow. In order to achieve a 100 % renewable energy supply. all of which would result in detrimental impacts on Europe’s economy and in energy insecurity. wind energy. but also that our dependency on fossil fuels is set to increase. and solar thermal electricity.eu EREC. a clear-cut and consistent mix of measures must be put in place along the following lines: • • • • • • • • • • • • Supporting the transition towards a 100% renewable energy economy through all EU policy areas Less is more – an ambitious energy efficiency and energy savings framework Effective and full implementation of the new RES Directive (2009) in all EU-27 Member States Binding renewable energy targets for 2030 Full liberalisation of the energy market Phasing out all subsidies for fossil and nuclear energy and introducing an EU-wide carbon tax Electricity infrastructure – moving towards SuperSmartGrids Hybrid energy solutions and virtual power plants Heating and cooling – measures to awaken the sleeping giant New transport solutions Smart-Energy Cities 2050 Smart-Energy Buildings 2050 – constructing a better climate Be part of a sustainable energy future – download the full report of RE-thinking 2050 & declare your support at: www.rethinking2050. ocean & marine. trade and research associations active in the field of photovoltaics. and that we would be bound to unpredictable energy prices. regional.000 employees. RE-thinking 7 Executive summary. bioenergy. It represents an industry with an annual turnover of more than €70 billion and more than 550. Europe should lead the way with a clear commitment to a 100% renewable energy future by 2050.

7/04/10 17:39 using vegetable ink.eu design : www.indd 8 Be part of a sustainable energy future – support 100% renewable energy: www.be Printed on recycled paper containing 50% recycled waste and 50% virgin fibre and manufactured at a mil certified with ISO 14001 environmental management standard.Executive summary. .mardi.rethinking2050.

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