Saturday

16th Feb 2019

Opinion

The press aren't doing their homework on 'costly' renewables

  • The European Commission’s Energy Roadmap 2050 has been hotly anticipated for months (Photo: European Community, 2005)

The European Commission’s Energy Roadmap 2050 has been hotly anticipated for months. Within minutes of its finally being published today, press releases and news alerts were flying around.

What a shame that some reporters were so keen to put the news out that they apparently failed to read the roadmap they were reporting on.

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Misinformed articles are being published about the “high costs” of decarbonisation and renewables, as purportedly shown in the roadmap. But in fact, the roadmap shows that all the 2050 energy scenarios, including the high-use-of-renewables scenario and the business-as-usual scenario, would have the same “overall system costs”.

On the other hand, perhaps those reporters are basing their claims on the finding that the high-use-of-renewables scenario has a higher electricity price than other decarbonisation scenarios after 2030.

However, until 2030, electricity prices are set to increase just as much under business-as-usual scenarios with a low penetration of renewables as they are in the decarbonised scenarios. It is not decarbonisation or renewables that will cause price rises, but the need to invest in replacing ageing power plants and grids.

The increase post-2030 in the high-use-of-renewables scenario is the result of far-fetched assumptions such as offshore wind costing the same in 2050 as today or running 50 nuclear power reactors at 50-percent capacity; but also oil prices dropping from over $100 per barrel today to $70 per barrel in 2050, and no gas or carbon-capture-and-storage infrastructure costs being accounted for in the next 40 years. Despite this, the overall costs of the high-use-of-renewables scenario are the same as the other scenarios. And the scenario with the lowest possible cost is missing: the one that would have combined high use of renewables and high energy efficiency.

Those who are trying to claim that decarbonisation is costly and that this is due to renewables are mistaken or, quite simply, have not done their homework.

Stephane Bourgeois is the head of regulatory affairs at the European Wind Energy Association.

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