Renewable Energy Production

Summary

Driver description
Interactions with the Technology Domain
Interactions within the Social Domain
Interactions with the Economy Domain
Interactions with the Environment Domain
Impacts on Mobility and Transport

Driver description

  • “Renewable energy is already helping to generate the electricity that we use every day.” (Ref: CO_0270)
Figure 1‑89 Contribution of renewables to electricity production, 2008 (TWh[1] and %)

[1] Terawatt hour

 

Source: Renewables make the difference (Ref: CO_0270)

  • “Wind energy is one of the most promising renewable energy technologies and an area which has seen many developments that have made its electricity generation more effective. Between 1991 and 2006, cumulative wind power capacity in the EU increased by an average of 33 % per year. Between 1995 and 2009, cumulative wind power installations in the EU increased their capacity from 2.497 MW to 74.767 MW.” (Ref: CO_0270)
  • “Solar power can be converted into electricity using photovoltaic (PV) solar cells to convert light directly into electricity. This can also be done using concentrating solar power (CSP), where parabolic solar collectors or solar towers are used to focus the light to heat a single point, thereby creating steam to drive a turbine. PV plants can be connected to batteries for storage, or feed into the electricity grid. CSP heat can be stored so that power can be produced during the absence of sunlight.” (Ref: CO_0270)
  • “Biomass is derived from different types of organic matter such as energy plants (oilseeds, plants containing sugar) and forestry, agricultural or urban waste including wood and household waste. Biomass can be used for heating, cooling, producing electricity and transport biofuels. (…). Different types of biomass use different technologies and processes for the production of bioenergy.” (Ref: CO_0270)
  • “Hydro power is produced from the movement of a mass of water such as a river, canal or stream. Hydro schemes convert the potential energy of the water, flowing with a certain fall (or ‘head’), into usable energy. Such schemes require a suitable rainfall catchment area, a hydraulic head, a pipe or device to carry water to a turbine, and a turbine house containing power   generation and water regulation equipment. Water is returned to its natural course after it has been used.” (Ref: CO_0270)
  • “As renewable technologies have matured, production of renewable energy has risen steadily, and costs have come down. However, development has been uneven across the EU, and renewable energies still represent only a small share of the EU’s total energy mix.” (Ref: CO_0270)
  • “In the power sector, renewable energy technologies, led by hydropower and wind, account for half of the new capacity installed to meet growing demand.” (Ref: CO_0152)
  • “Renewable electricity generation has grown rapidly over the last 20 years as a result of government support in many OECD European countries. In 1990, renewables excluding hydro generated 20 TWh. This grew by a factor of 10, to 209 TWh in 2007, mainly owing to support policies such as renewable feed-in tariffs or green certificate schemes in many European countries. Most of the growth is from wind (+104 TWh) and biomass (+75 TWh).” (Ref: CO_0153)
  • “Renewable energies are set to produce increasing amounts of electricity over the coming years — with projections showing that renewable electricity output could roughly triple between 2004 and 2020. Renewable heating is also on the rise — with output projected to increase consistently up to 2030. Both elements are clearly demonstrated in the graph below.” (Ref: CO_0270)
Figure 1‑90 Green X-model estimate of renewable growth for the ‘EU–27, 2006–2030, GWh[1]

[1] Gigawatt-hour per year.

 

Source: Renewables make the difference (Ref: CO_0270)

  • “The share of renewable energy sources (RES) rises substantially in all scenarios, achieving at least 55 % in gross final energy consumption in 2050, up 45 percentage points from today’s level at around 10 %. The share of RES in electricity consumption reaches 64 % in a high energy efficiency scenario and 97 % in a high renewables scenario that includes significant electricity storage to accommodate varying RES supply even at times of low demand.” (Ref: CO_0245)
  • “Because external costs of fossil fuels, such as environmental impact, are not fully considered, renewable energy is still not competitive.” (Ref: CO_0270)
  • “Without a significant change in policies, global electricity generation will continue to be largely based on fossil fuels to 2050 and beyond.” (Ref: CO_0153)
  • “(…) while renewables have begun to make their mark and provide more environmentally-friendly energy, the potential remains to increase their market share and establish them as cost-effective, widely used options.” (Ref: CO_0270)
  • “There is a need to invest in new renewable technologies, such as ocean energy and concentrated solar power and second and third generation biofuels. There is also a need to improve existing ones, such as by increasing the size of offshore wind turbines and blades to capture more wind and to improve photovoltaic panels to harvest more solar power.” (Ref: CO_0245)
  • “A number of other factors may (…) impede the financing of renewable energy projects. These may be inherent in the type of technology in question, or may vary according to project location. For example:
    • A higher proportion of the cost of a renewable project is often incurred upfront than is the case with conventional, fuel-based technologies;
    • Some renewable energy resources, such as wind and concentrating solar power, may be located far from demand centres. This increases the cost of interconnection. The allocation of grid connection costs is an important factor in investment decisions;
    • Permitting can be a lengthy process, particularly if a project requires multiple agency approval, in some cases at local, regional and national levels of government. Projects may be delayed, and costs increased, by issues such as unforeseen public opposition or local environmental concerns,
    • Perceived policy risk, driven by the possibility of negative or arbitrary changes over time in the policy environment for renewable energy technologies, can undermine investor confidence, in turn pushing up the required risk premium on investments.” (Ref: CO_0154)

Interactions within the Technology Domain

Technology development in general and innovation diffusion

  • “(…) the renewable energy technology industry is one which keeps on (…) developing new technologies.” (Ref: CO_0270)

Traction technologies

  • “Vehicles running on electricity produced from renewable energy sources are another means of increasing use of renewable energy for transport. Use of such vehicles is currently low but expected to grow rapidly.” (Ref: CO_0270)

Interactions with the Social Domain

Households structure and distribution

  • “Energy demand in the buildings sector is driven by population, climate, incomes, service sector value added and cultural factors. These factors have an impact on the number and size of households, the heating or cooling load, the number and types of appliances owned and their patterns of use.” (Ref: CO_0153)

Education

  • “PV power is booming, but how sustainable are the growth rates? There could be more than 600 GW of installed PV capacity by 2030, but will there be a sufficient number of skilled installers?” (Ref: CO_0267)
  • “A specific skill set is required for PV installations.” (Ref: CO_0267)
  • “The lack of qualified installers is quite evident.” (Ref: CO_0267)

Health

  • “Renewable energy will also help reduce air pollution thereby having a direct effect on our daily health.” (Ref: CO_0270)

Interactions with the Economy Domain

GDP tends

  • “(…) at a time of economic uncertainty, the renewable energy technology industry is one which keeps on growing.” (Ref: CO_0270)
  • “There are some signs that the necessary changes in power generation are starting to happen. Investment in renewable energy, led by wind and solar, reached an all-time high in 2008 and stayed at similar levels in 2009 despite the economic downturn. In 2009, more wind power was installed in Europe than any other electricity-generating technology.” (Ref: CO_0153)

Employment

  • “(…) the renewable energy technology industry is one which keeps on (…) providing jobs.” (Ref: CO_0270)
  • “According to the Europe 2020 Strategy, a more mature market for renewable energy technologies is also expected to bring about social and economic benefits such as new jobs.” (Ref: CO_0197)
  • “Investing early in the low carbon economy would stimulate a gradual structural change in the economy and can create in net terms new jobs both in the short and the medium-term. Renewable energy has a strong track record in job creation. In just 5 years, the renewable industry increased its work force from 230.000 to 550.000. Also for the construction sector low carbon investment offers large short-term job opportunities. With some 15 million employees in the EU, it was particularly hard hit by the economic.” (Ref: CO_0194)

Energy availability and prices

  • “As in the transport sector, shifting energy consumption towards low carbon electricity (including heat pumps and storage heaters) and renewable energy (e.g. solar heating, biogas, biomass), also provided through district heating systems, would help to protect consumers against rising fossil fuel prices and bring significant health benefits.” (Ref: CO_0194)

Fiscal policy

  • “As technologies mature and renewable deployment increases, so incentive policies will need to evolve and become more market-oriented.” (Ref: CO_0153)
  • “The advantages and benefits of investing in the clean energy and innovative sectors should be actively promoted whilst encouraging a more entrepreneurial spirit amongst venture capitalists.” (Ref: CO_0267)

Interactions with the Environment Domain

Climate change impacts

  • “Using renewable energy is one effective way of making our energy supply more environmentally friendly.” (Ref: CO_0270)

GHG mitigation

  • “Renewable energy sources (…) emit no greenhouse gases or only small amounts during their lifecycle.” (Ref: CO_0270)
  • “Use of biomass significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions. The carbon dioxide it gives off when burned is counterbalanced by the amount absorbed when the plant in question was grown. However, there are always some emissions from processes like cultivation and fuel production, so biomass is not completely carbon-free.” (Ref: CO_0270)
  • “Renewable energy sources can generate electricity with low or very low net CO2 emissions over their lifecycle. They therefore have the potential to make a significant long-term contribution to decarbonising the power sector.” (Ref: CO_0153)
  • “Some low-carbon generation technologies raise unique challenges. For example, system integration will be needed to support large quantities of variable renewable (such as wind, solar PV, run-of-river hydropower, and wave and tidal power).” (Ref: CO_0153)

Pollution levels and emission standards

  • “Renewable energy will also help reduce air pollution.” (Ref: CO_0270)
  • “(...) the effect of renewable energy sources may be positive — the availability of wind and solar energy — or negative — the increased use of biofuels, while nominally CO2 'neutral', could lead to increased emissions of other air pollutants over a life-cycle basis.” (Ref: CO_0230)

Energy availability, production and consumption

  • “There are some promising signs of increased activity to develop and deploy low carbon electricity generating technologies.” (Ref: CO_0153)
  • “Electricity generation from renewable energy grows almost threefold in the Baseline scenario. As a result it increases its share of global electricity generation from 18% in 2007 to 22% in 2050. The growth in non-hydro renewables is even more dramatic, with almost a ninefold increase. By 2050, these “new” renewables have a share of 10%, up from 2.5% in 2007.” (Ref: CO_0153)
Figure 1‑91 Composition of renewable power generation, 2007

 

Source: Energy Technology Perspectives 2010 (Ref: CO_0153)

  • “By 2050 in the BLUE Map scenario, the carbon intensity of electricity generation has been reduced by almost 90% compared to 2007 levels. Renewable energy accounts for almost half of total global electricity production, while nuclear energy’s share is just less than one-quarter. The remainder is from fossil fuels, largely combined with CCS.” (Ref: CO_0153)
Figure 1‑92 Global electricity generation mix

Source: Energy Technology Perspectives 2010 (Ref: CO_0153)

  • “The share of non-hydro renewables in power generation increases from 3% in 2009 to 15% in 2035, underpinned by annual subsidies to renewables that rise almost five-times to $180 billion. (...) Accommodating more electricity from renewable sources, sometimes in remote locations, will require additional investment in transmission networks amounting to 10% of total transmission investment: in the European Union, 25% of the investment in transmission networks is needed for this purpose.” (Ref: CO_0152)

Scarce resources of fossil fuels

  • “Given the particular vulnerability and oil dependence of the transport sector, the Renewable Energy Directive also specifies a 10 % minimum target to be achieved by all EU Member States for the share of renewable energy (biofuels, renewable electricity) in overall EU transport petrol and diesel consumption by 2020.” (Ref: CO_0270)

Impacts on Mobility and Transport

Electricity produced from renewable energy sources might become an important source for the transport sector.  So far the number of vehicles running by electricity produced from renewables is low but is expected to grow rapidly; this objective is in line with the Renewable Energy Directive which sets a 10 % minimum target to be achieved by all EU Member States for the share of renewable energy in EU transport petrol and diesel consumption by 2020.