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Doubling renewables by 2030 positive for EU economy and emission reductions – new IRENA report suggests

The European Union (EU) can increase the share of renewable energy in its energy mix to 34 percent by 2030 – double the share in 2016 – with a net positive economic impact, according to a new report released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in Brussels, Belgium.

IRENA’s Director-General Adnan Z. Amin (right) presenting the findings of its report ‘Renewable Energy Prospects for the European Union’ at a launch event in Brussels, Belgium with Miguel Arias Cañete, European Commissioner for Energy and Climate Action (left) who welcomed the report (photo courtesy IRENA).

Presenting the findings during a launch event February 20, IRENA’s Director-General Adnan Z. Amin highlighted that achieving higher shares of renewable energy is possible with today’s technology, and would trigger additional investments of around EUR 368 billion until 2030 – equal to an average annual contribution of 0.3 percent of the GDP of the EU. The number of people employed in the sector across the EU – currently 1.2 million – would grow significantly under a revised strategy.

The IRENA report ‘Renewable Energy Prospects for the European Union’ was developed at the request of the European Commission (EC).

Raising the share of renewable energy would help reduce emissions by a further 15 percent by 2030 – an amount equivalent to Italy’s total emissions. These reductions would bring the EU in line with its goal to reduce emissions by 40 percent compared to 1990 levels, and set it on a positive pathway towards longer-term decarbonisation.

The increase would result in savings of between EUR 44 billion and EUR 113 billion per annum by 2030, when accounting for savings related to the cost of energy, and avoided environmental and health costs.

For decades now, through ambitious long-term targets and strong policy measures, Europe has been at the forefront of global renewable energy deployment. 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, said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin.

Miguel Arias Cañete, European Commissioner for Energy and Climate Action welcomed the timeliness of the report.

The report confirms our 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, said Commissioner Cañete.

The report highlights that all EU Member States have additional cost-effective renewable energy potential, noting 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.

Additional key findings from the report, include:

  • Reaching a 34 percent renewable share by 2030 would require an estimated average investment in renewable energy of around EUR 62 billion annually.
  • 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.
  • Accelerated adoption of heat pumps and electric vehicles would increase electricity to 27 percent of total final energy consumption, up from 24 percent in a business as usual scenario.
  • The share of renewable energy in the power sector would rise to 50 percent by 2030, compared to 29 percent in 2015.
  • In end-use sectors, renewable energy would account for 42 percent of the energy in buildings, 36 percent in industry and 17 percent in transport.
  • All renewable transport options are needed, including electric vehicles and – both advanced and conventional – biofuels to realise long-term EU decarbonisation objectives.

The report is a contribution to the ongoing discussions on the European Commission’s ‘Clean Energy for All Europeans’ package, tabled in November 2016, which proposed a framework to support renewable energy deployment.

Renewable Energy Prospects for the European Union is part of IRENA’s renewable energy roadmap, REmap, which determines the potential for countries, regions and the world to scale up renewables to ensure an affordable and sustainable energy future.

The roadmap focuses on renewable technology options in power, as well as heating, cooling and transport. The REmap study for the EU is based on deep analysis of existing REmap studies for 10 EU Member States (accounting for 73 percent of EU energy use), complemented and aggregated with high-level analyses for the other 18 EU Member States.

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