Outlook towards 100% renewable energy
Rainer Hinrichs-Rahlwes
A set of 2020-targets and policies are in place. A comprehensive framework for renewable energy
and greenhouse gas reduction was set up and enacted. And with some relevant exceptions
it is being implemented. It has become a major pillar of Europe’s policy priorities, with all its
different elements, with its strengths and weaknesses, from the Renewables Directive with binding
targets for each Member State, via the improved but still not effectively working Emissions
Trading Directive to the Effort Sharing Decision and the non-binding efficiency target to the
CCS-Directive, which is trying to develop a technology which will most likely never become
economically viable and, eventually, the greenhouse gas reduction target of 20%, which definitely
should but probably will not be raised to 30%, because there will not be an international agreement
with similar ambition. The framework as it was agreed in 2008/2009, together with the single
market legislation, is the starting point for further development beyond 2020. It provides guiding
principles for a process of setting up a next milestone for Europe’s climate and energy policies
including policies, a regulator y framework and ambitious targets.
The overall positive assessment of the framework is put in question by some Member States who
are shifting from ambitious and full implementation to revising their national targets and policies
in a way that achieving the 2020-targets is seriously at risk. This is a major stumbling stone to be
taken into account when it comes to setting up the framework for the next decade. Some Member
States remain strongly dependent from their incumbent utilities.They still have markets and energy
systems in place, which were designed for conventional and/or nuclear energy and are still being
operated accordingly. As a result, subsidies for conventional energy continue to be much higher
than those for renewables, but nevertheless public opinion is lead to discussing increasing energy
prices allegedly due to renewables support. If existing and written off conventional power plants are
compared to new renewables, conventional energy seems to be cheaper. If societal costs of nuclear
are borne by taxpayers instead being included in the electricity prices, nuclear power appears to
be cheaper than some renewables. And with a dysfunctional ETS, coal fired power plants seem
to be cheaper than they actually are. Strong incumbents have their means to spread their views of
energy security and affordability via media, sometimes heavily depending on their advertising.
Support schemes and supportive framework conditions with ambitious targets are necessary
to further accelerate development and deployment of renewable energies. It is indispensable that
decisions to phase out fossil fuel subsidies are implemented in order to create a level playing
field with increasingly internalised external cost of fossil fuel production and consumption. In
this context, support for Carbon Capture and Storage is highly questionable, because the main
purpose of CCS, as it is discussed today, seems to be perpetuating the use of coal, oil and gas under
the headline of low-carbon energies
. It will be of par ticular importance to limit public spending
It is not necessary to discuss in detail here whether or not in the context of an energy system with very
high shares of renewable energy it might be useful or necessary to capture carbon emissions from biomass
in order to achieve additional greenhouse gas reductions, which are necessary to limit global warming. In
the present discussion, this is not a relevant option. And safe storage of carbon dioxide would still be an issue
to be solved, before “biomass-CCS” could be accepted under sustainability aspects. Alternatively, material
use of the captured gases could be considered.

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