Renewable energy provided around 52% of all German power consumption in Q1 2020, an all time high. With the Green New Deal under debate, the EU’s goal of 100% renewables by 2050 could be within reach.
The German Federal Association of Energy and Water Management (BDEW) and the Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg (ZSW) reported the preliminary calculations with news of renewable energy’s domination of the domestic energy market.
There was a warning that special circumstances were involved in the increase and that the trend might not continue, especially given that the first quarter of the year usually shows a high renewables share due to weather conditions. This year saw record winds in February, followed by an unusually sunny March. In 2019 the share of renewable energy in German power consumption in Q1 was 44%.
Another factor was that the amount of conventional power fed into the grid decreased because of the closure of coal and nuclear plants in late 2019, removing over 2GW of power generation. Add this to priority for renewable sources of energy and the dynamics of the market begin to shift.
Overall power consumption in Germany was also down by 1% from the same period last year. This dip is attributable to the relatively weak economy and a decline in industrial production in the last week of March, triggered by the corona crisis. German gross power generation was down 7% in the first quarter and, given the lockdown in April, this is likely to continue to decline in the short term.
While the pressure on the sector is mounting in the face of a challenging economic environment, the news from Germany shows that renewable energy is demonstrating its ability to service Europe’s power needs. While there may be areas of the economy where increased focus on the development and deployment of heat pumps and green hydrogen may be necessary, solar and wind energy continue to make great strides.
A recent report from Finland’s LUT University has said that the EU could be 100% renewable by 2050, with 85% of energy demand met by electricity, up to which over 60% could be provided by solar power. The report modeled three different scenarios, one of which would see GHG emissions down to zero in 2040.
Claude Turmes, Luxembourg’s energy minister said, “The study highlights the critical advantage of a 100% renewable pathway, as the most cost effective way of achieving climate neutrality before 2050 and to make the European energy system less dependent and more resilient.”
This contrasts with the potential turmoil likely to stem from volatility in the oil markets. The one silver lining is the impact that the oil shock is having on the environment. With the new global oil market figures from the IEA, Carbon Brief has updated its analysis of the impact on global emissions. If the new figures are correct, global emissions could be down as much as 5.5% in 2020. Previous estimates had put the overall drop at 4%. If climate goals are to be met however, emissions must be reduced further and continue to be reduced every year.
Aristotelis Chantavas, President of SolarPower Europe which also worked on the report said, “A 100% renewable energy system enables the EU to become climate neutral before 2050, complying with the ambitious 1.5°C Paris Agreement target, and without resorting to carbon sinks. It also highlights the pivotal role of electrification to achieve a 100% renewable-based energy system, which will generate significant system efficiency gains and facilitate sectoral integration. With this cutting-edge report, we aim to contribute a new perspective to the discussion on how to enable a true European Green Deal.”
And action on the Green Deal continues apace. There is growing talk of a ‘green’ Marshall Plan which, as Maurizio Massari, the Italian permanent representative to the EU suggests, should focus on relief, recovery and reform. For supporters of such an approach the news is positive: the Club of Rome is encouraging the G20 to implement green recovery packages and the EU is still considering whether or not a green deal will be central to its recovery plans.
On 14th April the European Parliament launched the ‘green recovery alliance’, consisting of 180 political decision-makers, business leaders, trade unions, NGOs, and think tanks all calling for a commitment by all stakeholders to address the social and economic consequences of the coronavirus outbreak, in addition to long-term climate change initiatives. Additionally, an open call for centring stimulus around a green recovery has been signed by (so far) the environment and climate ministers of Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain,and Sweden.
While there has been no decision as yet, with the EU’s past track record as a climate leader it remains possible that the EU could lead the way to a significant transformation of the way that we live and work.