Wind and solar energy can become Europe’s dominant source of electricity as part of an almost entirely clean power system by 2035, according to a recent report by climate think tank Ember.
Getting there would require additional upfront investments of up to €750 billion on top of existing national plans to decarbonize the grid, for a total of about €1.3 trillion to €1.6 trillion.
However, Europe would save about €1 trillion by 2035 in fossil fuel consumption, and the cost of electricity would also drop.
This means the grid transformation would come at no extra cost beyond countries’ current plans, the report states.
For wind and solar to provide up to 80% of electricity generation by 2035, annual growth in capacity must quadruple by 2025 compared to the last decade, Ember researchers said.
The chart above explores different scenarios for Europe’s power generation mix.
The “stated policy” scenario is based on stated national policies until October 2021 and does not capture any policy announcement since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The other two scenarios, “technology driven” and “system change,” focus on minimizing costs while remaining aligned with the Paris climate agreement goals.
These latter two scenarios would expand clean electrification but differ in their assumptions about available technologies, such as long-duration energy storage and renewable hydrogen, as well as the levels of energy savings.
The technology driven scenario includes the option to invest in new nuclear power plants and power generation equipped with carbon capture technology.
The system change scenario relies more heavily on behavioral change to drive energy savings. Coal is also phased out by 2030 in this scenario and other fossil fuels by 2035.
‘Europe’ refers to the 27 EU countries, as well as to the United Kingdom, Norway, Switzerland and six Western Balkan countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.