What happens to renewable energy?

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 1 September 2004

Citation

(2004), "What happens to renewable energy?", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 5 No. 3. https://doi.org/10.1108/ijshe.2004.24905caf.001

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited


What happens to renewable energy?

The European Renewable Energies Federation (EREF) has recently warned that EU states are falling behind on commitments to increase shares of renewable energy. The Federation described itself as “very preoccupied with this negative development”.

EREF’s analysis comes as the European Commission is preparing its own evaluation of progress towards 2010 targets for national shares of renewable electricity set in a 2001 directive, to be based on reports due from each member state last autumn.

Under the renewable electricity directive, the EU-15 states should reach a collective 22 per cent share of renewables in electricity consumption by 2010. According to EREF, even on a very optimistic scenario of substantial new efforts they will only achieve 20 per cent. On a more realistic scenario the share will be under 18 per cent.

Several factors are important, EREF says. Efforts to promote renewables are running out of steam in some countries. It points to Austria, Denmark, Finland and Greece. Rising electricity demand is swamping renewable power growth in some countries – the share of renewable electricity has actually fallen since 1999 in Austria, France and Sweden.

At the same time, some countries – as happens in many developing nations all over the world – are over-dependent on one source of renewable energy whose output can fluctuate. France is given as a prime example: during the 2003 heatwave its output of hydroelectricity slumped, forcing electricity imports, largely generated from fossil fuels.

EREF highlights Germany as the only EU-15 state that might reach its 2010 renewable electricity target. A separate study just published by the German Environment Ministry suggests that it could further extend its leadership by mid-century.

Based on extensive research by three independent institutes, the study concludes that by 2050 Germany could boost its share of renewable electricity to as high as 65 per cent and its share of renewable heat to 50 per cent. National greenhouse gas emissions would fall 75 per cent compared with 2000 as a result. The scale of renewables’ contribution envisioned is colossal since renewables currently supply only 8 per cent of electricity and 4 per cent of heat demand in Germany. Its 2010 renewable electricity target under the EU directive is 12.5 per cent. The government has set an additional target of 20 per cent by 2020.

The new study’s 2050 scenarios are based on a great reduction in reliance on fossil fuels and big new investments in renewables, especially over the next 16 years. There would also have to be big energy efficiency improvements. Renewables would be expected to take over most if not all of the 30 per cent share of electricity currently supplied by nuclear power, which Germany is due to phase out during the 2020s.

This state of affairs shows that much more effort is needed in order to make the long-term use of renewable energy a reality. And since the year 2004 is the year when the tenth anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol is being celebrated, it clearly outlines one of the areas where immediate action is badly needed.