Doubling Europe’s renewable energy plant capacity would halve the power sector’s gas consumption for electricity and at a stroke save the EU almost €325bn ($250bn) by the end of the decade, while greatly reducing the bloc’s reliance on Russian gas, according to new research out of Wärtsilä Energy.
More aspirational wind and solar build-out in the EU, it said in its report, Europe’s Energy Future, could lead a clean-energy charge that would see non-fossil electricity generation mushroom from around 33% today of the total to over 60% by 2030 and would “directly impact” electricity bills Europe-wide, reducing them by up to 10%.
“An ambitious approach could cut annual gas usage in the power sector by 52% across the continent by 2030. This can enable the region to avoid 5,456TWh of gas consumption, equivalent of 3.5 years of Russian gas supply to the EU, significantly increasing Europe’s energy independence,” said Sushil Purohit, president of Wärtsilä Energy.
“By following this path Europe could achieve a net zero power system by 2040, a decade ahead of the national net zero targets set by the [European Commission].
“Cutting Europe’s dependence on expensive baseload fossil fuels and increasing energy independence need not cost more for power companies or energy consumers” he added.
“That is why we are calling for fast decisions to accelerate renewables, tackle the energy price crisis and enable rapid decarbonisation to avert the climate emergency. The time is now.”
For the report, which was based on the International Energy Agency’s 2021 renewables statistics, Wärtsilä modelled two scenarios: the baseline, where 40GW of new capacity was switched-on every year – which would see a 50% share of renewable power by 2030 – and one in which 80GW was brought online annually – which would lead to 61% renewable power by this date.
In this more progressive scenarios, wind and solar would be deployed alongside grid-balancing technologies, including energy storage and “future-proof balancing engines” running on e-fuels.
EU CO2 emissions were also halved if the bloc’s renewable build is doubled, from 911 million tonnes in 2021 to 479 million tonnes in 2030 – which” equates to nearly the entire annual carbon footprint of the UK”, noted the report authors
The Wärtsilä Energy report, which looked at 33 European countries, including 27 EU member states, plus UK, Norway, Switzerland and the Balkans, found that if renewables were scaled up to 50% of the capacity mix by 2025 then Europe could save already €98bn in energy costs.
Jan Andersson, Wärtsilä Energy‘s general manager for market development in Africa & Europe, said: “There is now widespread support in the European parliament for a 45% renewable energy target to urgently cut Europe’s dependence on the volatile gas market in the lowest cost, cleanest way.
“Our modelling shows that going further - raising the share of renewables to more than 60% would almost halve power sector gas consumption, while creating major energy savings for European households.
“With the right political will, this can be done. We urge leaders to use this unique moment of consensus to be ambitious and seize the opportunity to turn the energy crisis into an opportunity to accelerate the transition.”