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Report: Renewable energy future means better lives for Europeans

Renewable Energy Future

A new report from Ernst & Young shows a renewable energy future will bring a host of benefits to Europeans. Creative Commons: Windwärts Energy, 2011

Shifting from dirty energy to renewables will reduce Europe’s dependence on energy imports, drive economic recovery and help the bloc meet its climate change targets, according to a new report published by consultants Ernst & Young. Debunking the myth that business-as-usual is a winning strategy for Europe, the report instead calls for the EU to shed its reliance on fossil fuels and to replace them with energy efficiency and renewables – a win-win for people, the planet and profit. The report highlights that renewables can allow the EU massive savings on its fuel import bill, enable households to save up to €474 billion on energy costs over the next forty years. But NGOs and progressive businesses insist that strong 2030 climate and energy targets are needed for this to become reality. Believing in a renewable energy future is not pie in the sky; a report from REN21published last week at the first Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) forum in New York shows that renewables contributed over half of additional global power capacity in 2013. Examining the current state of renewables globally, the report found that clean energy capacity grew by 8.3% in 2013 and that developing countries, such as China and India, were the main drivers in this expansion over the last year. 95 developing countries now providing government support for renewables – a six-fold increase from almost a decade ago – while in total, 144 countries support renewable energy and have targets in place, according to the report. The increase in support in developing countries is contrasted with lower subsidies in some European countries and the US, and increasing policy uncertainty, and that countries must ensure “bold, diverse policy action aimed at doubling or tripling current financial flows” and “secure stable policy frameworks for renewables”. This echos the warnings of NGOs and renewable energy companies across the EU which are calling for policy certainty as the bloc debates it 2030 targets. A new study by IRENA, also launched at the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) forum, likewise shows the potential for a glowing future for renewables; estimating they could make up 36% of the world’s total energy consumption by 2030. The report says that such growth is affordable and that investments needed to make it happen would be offset by savings of up to $740 billion each year on costs associated with pollution from fossil fuels. It will also allow the world to limit the global temperature rise, helping to avoid runaway climate change, and bring co-benefits for health, jobs, energy security and clean air. But while the China, the US, Brazil and Canada are seen to be leading the way on installing renewable power capacity, some European countries are also showcasing what can be done; namely Germany, where last month a record breaking 75% of electricity demand was provided by clean energy, with electricity prices dipping into minus figures. During the first quarter of 2014, 27% of Germany’s electricity demand was powered by renewables. Last year also saw an impressive milestone for Portugal, which generated 70% of its electricity from renewables three months running, and Denmark, where on 3 November, the power got 100% of its energy from wind power alone. The UK also saw renewables’ share of electricity generation in the country reach a record high in the second quarter of 2013 – accounting for 15.5%. Finland led the way last week as it became the latest country to announce a new Climate Change Act, which will inscribe a long-term mitigation target of 80% emissions reductions by 2050. Denmark is also set to pass its climate change bill this week. Announced in February, the bill will set a binding target for the country to reduce its emissions by 40% by 2020. Last month, the Danish government set out four possible pathways showing the feasibility of the country’s aim to go 100% renewable by 2050.

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