A new study in Europe suggests ending fossil fuels and switching to green energy might not bring the giant economic costs that many still fear. On the contrary, it may help Europe save $1 trillion according to independent energy think-tank Ember.
The analysis suggests that can happen by expanding Europe’s electricity system through increasing renewable energy generation four times and creating electrical infrastructure. This proposed solution has the potential to improve energy security and contribute to cleaner air.
The think tank modeled the continent’s electricity system to find the cheapest energy pathway to reaching net-zero by 2050. The scenarios with the lowest costs showed Europe reaching an almost entirely fossil-free clean energy by 2035 with up to 80% of energy coming from solar or wind sources.
“Scaling clean power is a win-win-win,” said Chris Rosslowe, Ember’s senior energy analyst. “It will save money, put Europe on track for its climate commitments and reduce its reliance on imported fossil fuels. Europe should invest now for a huge payback by 2035.”
The study found that the proposed clean energy scenario would remain effective and stable even during periods with little sun or wind and “would deliver major improvements in Europe’s energy sovereignty at a time when reducing fossil fuel dependence is an urgent priority for climate, the economy, and security.”
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The study was conducted before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that caused soaring fossil fuel prices. Rosslowe said that this new reality that created a price war might yield even higher savings.
Ember’s proposal, however, could face serious roadblocks during its implementation. The European countries would have to invest $315-790 billion upfront and add as much as 65 gigawatts of wind and solar generation capacity per year.
With the war in Ukraine that was preceded by a global pandemic, it would be hard for political leaders to gain support for such an investment, even if it is well justified in the long term.
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Another report released the same day by the International Energy Agency showed energy investment globally will increase to $2.4 trillion (8%) by 2022 and a big part of that will be spending on green energy. However, the agency’s researchers say this spending is far from enough to tackle the climate crisis.
Next week, the G7 summit in Germany will discuss the actions they should take following Putin’s war and the subsequent gas crisis. A month ago, the G7 leaders agreed to work toward mostly decarbonized electricity sectors by 2035 in line with the Paris agreement.