The European Union can increase the share of renewable energy in its energy mix to 34% by 2030 – double the share in 2016 – with a net positive economic impact, according to an International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) report launched in Brussels on Tuesday.
IRENA’s Director General Adnan Z. Amin presented the findings during the launch event, “Renewable Energy Prospects for the European Union” – developed at the request of the European Commission.
Achieving higher shares of renewable energy is possible with today’s technology, and would trigger additional investments of around €368 billion until 2030 – equal to an average annual contribution of 0.3% of the GDP of the EU, Amin said. The number of people employed in the sector across the EU – currently 1.2 million – would grow significantly under a revised strategy.
Raising the share of renewable energy would help reduce emissions by a further 15% by 2030 – an amount equivalent to Italy’s total emissions, IRENA said, adding that these reductions would bring the EU in line with its goal to reduce emissions by 40% compared to 1990 levels and set it on a positive path towards longer-term de-carbonisation.
The increase would result in a savings of between €44 billion and €113 billion per year by 2030, when accounting for savings related to the cost of energy, and avoided environmental and health costs.
EU Energy and Climate Action Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete hailed the findings of the report, noting that it confirms the EU’s own assessments that the costs of renewables have come down significantly in the last couple of years, and that “we need to consider these new realities in our ambition levels for the upcoming negotiations to finalise Europe’s renewable energy policies”.
According to the IRENA report, all EU Member States have additional cost-effective renewable energy potential. The report notes that renewable heating and cooling options account for more than one-third of the EU’s additional renewables potential. Furthermore, all renewable transport options will be needed to realise EU’s long-term decarbonisation objectives.
The report also notes that reaching a 34% renewable share by 2030 would require an estimated average investment in renewable energy of around €62 billion per year.
The renewable energy potential identified would result in 327 GW of installed wind capacity, an additional 97 GW compared to business as usual, and 270 GW of solar, an 86 GW increase on business as usual.
An accelerated adoption of heat pumps and electric vehicles would increase electricity to 27% of total final energy consumption, up from 24% in a business as usual scenario.
The share of renewable energy in the power sector would rise to 50% by 2030, compared to 29% in 2015.
In the end-use sectors, renewable energy would account for 42% of energy in buildings, 36% in industry, and 17% in transport.
All renewable transport options are needed, including electric vehicles and – both advanced and conventional – biofuels to realise long-term EU de-carbonisation objectives, IRENA said.