EU can double renewables and boost economy, report finds

A cost-effective approach to integration with the European Union (EU) could help the bloc double the percentage of renewable energy that it uses, while bringing Member States in line with a collective goal to reduce emissions by 40% by 2030.

According to a new IRENA report, published today (20 February), the EU could double the share of renewables in its energy mix from 17% in 2015 to 34% by 2030. Not only would this reduce emissions by a further 15% – exceeding the 40% goal – it would also create further economic, health and job benefits.

“For decades now, through ambitious long-term targets and strong policy measures, Europe has been at the forefront of global renewable energy deployment,” IRENA’s director-general Adnan Z. Amin said.

“With an ambitious and achievable new renewable energy strategy, the EU can deliver market certainty to investors and developers, strengthen economic activity, grow jobs, improve health and put the EU on a stronger decarbonisation pathway in line with its climate objectives.”

The number of people employed within the renewables sector across the EU – currently 1.2 million – looks set to “grow significantly” under the revised strategy. A “more ambitious” strategy could still be implemented, the report notes, that would see the share of renewables and job growth increase even more.

The growth of renewables looks set to generate huge costs savings for the EU, with the report noting that £17.8bn could be saved annually by 2030. Savings from health damage associated with pollution would generate between £13bn to £50.7bn annually by 2030, while environmental costs avoided would range from £5bn to £26bn.

In order to reach the 34% renewable share by 2030, an estimated £54bn would need to be invested annually.

Renewables and reductions

In terms of emissions mitigation, the IRENA reported suggests that full implementation of suggestions would deliver a reduction of 412 million tonnes of CO2, equating to a 15% cut. The ideal scenario would create a 42% reduction in emissions below 1990 levels in the energy sector. Overall, the EU has a 40% reduction objective for 2030.

The uptake of renewables across heat and transport – heating and cooling already account for half the energy demand in the EU – continues to lag. However, the report does note that more than two-thirds of the additional renewable heating and cooling options identified are cheap that conventional alternatives. In total, heating and cooling solutions could account for more than one third of the EU’s untapped renewables potential.

Last year, analysis published by the European Environment Agency (EEA) found that emissions from the bloc increased for the first time in five years, largely driven by heat demand due to a colder winter and an increase in road transport.

Matt Mace

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