Trying to determine Europe’s energy mix in 2020 is no easy task

» By | Published 16 Apr 2012

EWEA CEO Christian Kjaer

What do you think the energy landscape might look like in just eight years time – which electricity-generating technology will win-out on the energy battlefield? That was the tough question speakers at a panel discussion at the EWEA Annual Event on Monday debated.

While persuasive arguments were made by those speaking at the session — called “Post 2020: Which Technologies Will Deliver? — it became obvious that providing increasing amounts of affordable and local green electricity while rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions isn’t likely going to depend on only one of the technologies.

Starting the session off, EWEA CEO Christian Kjaer noted that the EU imports 54% of its energy supplies since it has less than 1% of proven global oil reserves, about 2% of gas reserves and approximately 3.5% of coal reserves.

As a result, Kjaer added, the total sent out of Europe for energy imports each year is equivalent to each EU citizen paying €700.

He said the EU has to build about 350 GW of new electricity generating capacity before 2020 and increase energy imports at ever higher costs. The region is also dealing with ineffective competition in the EU power market and insufficient investment in power infrastructure.

Kjaer added, however, that the quickly-expanding wind power sector is already producing 6.3% of total EU electricity demand.

Noting that nations have lost momentum on global climate change policy in the past three years, Reinhold Buttgereit, the Secretary General of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association, said over 51 GW of PV systems had been installed in Europe by the at the end of 2011.

Simon Blakey of Eurogas predicted the world would notice greenhouse gas concentrations increasing by 2.5 to 3 parts per million for the next eight years but said that gas offers a fast and cost-effective way of reducing carbon in the energy mix. “We can not underestimate the seriousness of the challenge that lies in front of us,” Blakey said, adding there is a limit as to how much wind and solar power electrical systems can absorb.

Earlier in the day, Arthouros Zervos, EWEA President, noted that wind has achieved a level of grid integration that was previously thought impossible. For those who think wind can’t deliver the energy we need, consider this: Denmark produces 26% of its electricity from wind (and is aiming for 50% by 2020), Spain 16%, Portugal 16% and Germany 10%.

Paolo Frankl, of the International Energy Agency, said the Paris-based organisation still believes in nuclear power despite last year’s disaster at the nuclear reactor in Fukushima, Japan.

Summing up the session, panel moderator Patrick Dixon declared that none of the electricity-generating technologies would by themselves meet all of Europe’s increasing power needs while helping to mitigate climate change.

Europe on track to meet 2020 targets

Meanwhile, Europe’s target for a 20% share of renewable energy in the overall energy mix by 2020 was the hot topic at another EWEA 2012 session with Joachim Balke from the European Commission reporting that most member states have already met their interim targets. However, future interim targets are set to get more and more challenging as 2020 approaches, with increasingly high installment rates needed to meet the 2020 targets.

The annual rate of capital investment in renewables was €35 billion in 2009 and this needs to double by 2020, Balke said. We also need stable national support schemes for renewables: “Retroactive changes to support schemes are very unhelpful,” he said.

Africa needs different types of turbine

At yet another session Alex De Broe from 3E turned his attention to Africa.

Wind power is developing in Morocco, Egypt, South Africa and Ethiopia but a different type of machine is needed to the ones promoted in Europe – one that takes into account the lack of investment, lack of access roads, cranes and electricity grids. Turbines need to be smaller, lighter and connected on local scales, he said. Wind power can be a solution in an area that has the world’s lowest access rates to electricity, he added.

Find out what happened earlier today at EWEA 2012 in Copenhagen attended by Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, here.

Additional reporting by Zoë Casey

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said, “Simon Blakey of Eurogas predicted Europe would notice greenhouse gasses continuing to increase in the next eight years.”

Categories: EWEA