Can renewable energy sources power the world?
Can renewable energy sources power the world?

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Can renewable energy sources power the world?

6 Renewable energy scenarios for Europe

Can renewable energies provide all, or most, of Europe’s electricity? That this is possible is the conclusion of a 2010 study by the European Climate Foundation (ECF), based on analysis by the consultancy McKinsey, Imperial College London and Oxford Economics, among others (ECF, 2010). It illustrates various pathways to a ‘Prosperous, Low Carbon Europe’, in which the renewable electricity contributions range from 40% to 100%.

Figure 5 describes one such pathway, ECF’s 80% renewable electricity scenario, with hydro, solar, wind, biomass and geothermal energy growing to provide 80% of Europe’s electricity by 2050.

Figure 4 European Climate Foundation Roadmap 2050 projection, showing how renewables could supply 80% of Europe’s electricity by 2050. ‘Existing’ plant includes new builds up to 2010.

Unlike some of the scenarios we’ve been discussing, the ECF scenario envisages a continuing role in Europe for nuclear power, alongside a major contribution from renewables, with new reactors replacing the existing fleet.

Watch the following video where the interviewee discusses the track record of the United Kingdom on nuclear power, and whether it would be preferable for the UK to invest in energy efficiency and renewables instead of building new nuclear plants.

Download this video clip.Video player: track_02_renewable_energy_and_the_uk_the_place_of_nuclear.mp4
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Renewable energy policy is different in Scotland to the rest of the United Kingdom. That has allowed the Scottish government to set a rather different course and, actually, a more ambitious one. Over the years that that's been happening, the Westminster policy tends to try to catch up. I think that that dichotomy, that conflict in a sense, has actually been healthy for the whole of the UK.
The Scottish government, the Scottish Parliament actually doesn't have very much power in the area of energy policy. Most of the powers, the levers of power, are based in the Westminster institutions. So they've been able to do quite a lot with very little lawmaking power.
Scotland has always had a significant hydro capacity since the post-war period. So there was a base on which to build there. And since devolution, when climate change came further and further up the agenda of all governments, all the Scottish governments have tried to be- seem to be progressive. They try to be active in renewable energy. And it's just increased over the years.
Renewable energy has been a very popular political priority for both administrations we've had in the Scottish Parliament since devolution took place. The first labour liberal Democrat executive set the first-ever renewable energy target. And the SNP, in particular, in our re-election in 2011, came in with a goal of generating 100 percent of our electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020.
The experience of Scotland has been that any target that has been set, whoever it's been set by, has been met or exceeded because there is such a great consensus. Maybe it's something to do with the society that we live in and Scotland, just being more attuned to green values, more willing to support environmental causes. We do, after all, have the world's most ambitious climate change targets now in Scotland. And that sets a backdrop for a country that is more willing to really support and embrace renewable energy.
I think the countries that have succeeded in really rapidly changing their engine systems are the ones who have been very strong political leadership, and a clear, strong statement of intent by government. And Scotland has very much done that and unequivocally stated it wants to expand this renewable energy sector. Once you have that, then you come on to the next difficult bit, where you're setting up the legal, the regulatory, financial frameworks and that will bring investment and create development.
And so, it's in a very strong commitment from the Scottish government to renewables. We then seen a lot of work done to create the right planning framework to balance the need for renewable energy of elements with a need to protect our iconic landscapes. Because just as Scotland is becoming known for renewable energy, Scotland has long been known as a beautiful country with spectacular landscapes.
One of the other things in terms of policy that the Scottish government has done is they have a favourable planning environment, so it's not that it's predisposed towards renewables, but it's very efficient so you won't necessarily get an application bogged down in the planning system in a way that you might south of the border. One of the things that I think they've done quite successfully is reached out to the industry and brought the industry on board.
So for example, there is an energy advisory board, which is convened by the first minister and also by a senior representative within the industry and brings together lots of industry partners, academic community, lots of different players coming together. So there's been a sense in which there is a consensus among the different partners or different players behind this drive towards a low carbon Scotland.
End transcript
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If you would like to explore the pros and cons of nuclear power in more detail, have a look at the arguments for and against in the OpenLearn free course Nuclear power: friend or foe? [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

So what are the implications for renewable energy of the proposed European supergrids and DESERTEC? You‘ll look at this in the next section.


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