100% Renewable Energy “Achievable” for Europe by 2050: Study

A new study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) argues that Europe and North Africa can achieve complete independence from fossil fuels by 2050, and that all the technologies necessary for such a transformation are already in place.

The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and the European Climate Forum all contributed to the report, which was released Friday.

The report’s Executive Summary, which was made available online (PDF), provides a detailed road map of how such a monumental transformation could occur. Central to achieving the goal of decarbonization of Europe’s power supply is the creation of a continent-wide smart electrical grid.

Similar goals have been outlined for the US, where the relatively balkanized and out-moded electric grid is one hurdle to the expansion of renewable energy here.

The UK’s BusinessGreen.com had a smart summary of the report in an article posted Monday:

The report..concludes it is technically feasible to produce a pan-continental supersmart grid powered by solar farms in North Africa, hydro electric plants in Scandinavia and the European Alps, onshore and offshore wind farms in the Baltic and North Sea, marine energy, and biomass power facilities.

The 100 percent goal could be reached even without nuclear energy or carbon-capture and storage technology, two controversial elements of the renewable energy debate, according to the report.

Power from the Saharan Sun

Environmentalists’ dreams of a 100 percent renewable future were given a boost last year with the announcement of Desertec, a plan by a consortium of Europe governments, NGOs and corporations to provide 15 percent or more of Europe and the Middle East’s electricity needs with solar power from North Africa by 2050.

While some have argued that such a transcontinental power grid might decrease energy security, the report’s authors disagree:

We conclude that, even with its heavy reliance on power from North Africa, the 2050 roadmap would actually lead to a net decrease in the reliance of the power sector on imported energy, as well as to a greater diversification of the countries from which those imports stem.

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.