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Climate-friendly, reliable, affordable: 100% renewable electricity supply by 2050

05.05.2010
„Germany can be supplied with 100% climate-friendly electricity from renewable sources by 2050” declared the Chair of the German Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU), Prof Martin Faulstich, today in the Environment Committee of the German Bundestag where the Council presented its scenarios for a renewable electricity supply in Germany. “This is the time for the German Federal Government to set the course for the transition of the energy system”, Prof Faulstich added.

The energy expert of the SRU, Prof Olav Hohmeyer, emphasised: “The transition towards a renewable electricity system does not require either an extension of the operating life of nuclear power plants or the construction of new coal power plants.” The “bridge” towards renewable energy is already in place.

The German Advisory Council on the Environment shows in a range of different future scenarios that a fully renewables-based electricity supply by 2050 is possible at competitive costs. Security of supply can be guaranteed at all times, every hour of the year. This provides an opportunity for sustainable innovation, enhancing the outlook for Germany’s economic future.

The scenarios are based on modelling results by the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The REMix model which was used for the calculations is amongst the best and most sophisticated models in Europe. It works with an extremely high temporal resolution in modelling electricity supply and demand.

Major results of the scenarios include:

1. The sustainable potential for renewable energy in Europe exceeds the current and future electricity demand many times.

2. Because the supply of wind and solar energy fluctuates considerably, however, meeting the demand requires an extension of the grid as well as the development of electricity storage capacities. For storage, the SRU recommends in particular a close cooperation with Scandinavian countries such as Norway and Sweden. For example, a connection between Scandinavian hydro power and pump storage potentials and German supply potentials can create the required balancing mechanism and thereby lower the costs. The SRU also shows how a larger European-North African network can provide a reliable and low-cost electricity supply.

3. The electricity production costs in a fully renewables-based electricity system would according to calculations by the SRU probably be even lower than those in a system based on a mix of renewables and low-carbon conventional fuels. The costs of power generation, storage and international grid extension could in 2050 be in the range of 6 to 7 ct/kWh if policy is committed to stringent energy efficiency and saving as well as to the development of an overarching European electricity grid. Electricity production costs currently contribute about one third to the electricity prices for private consumers.

4. The necessary renewal of the power plant capital stock in Germany offers particularly favourable conditions for a transition towards renewable sources. Existing conventional power plants and those already under construction could successively be taken off the grid at the end of their regular lifetime. The SRU estimates that the gradual reduction of conventional capacity can be compensated through the addition of renewable capacity.

This means: The transition towards a renewables-based electricity supply does not require either an extension of the operating life of nuclear power plants or the construction of new coal power stations with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). The SRU cautions that a significant extension of the operating life of nuclear power plants would lead to overcapacities in the system. In the long term, conventional power plants are not compatible with renewable electricity supply because their output cannot be adjusted sufficiently quickly to match the fluctuations of wind and solar power generation. The permanent co-existence of conventional and growing renewable electricity generation would make the system inefficient and unnecessarily expensive.

5. Grid extension and the development of electricity storage in Germany and the EU is the biggest challenge for a rapid transition towards a renewables-based electricity system. Here, quick action is urgently required. The SRU advises the Federal Government to play a very active role in planning the extension.

The scenarios presented by the SRU are part of a Special Report on the future of the electricity supply which will be published in the autumn. The Special Report will address in detail the political, legal, and economic requirements for a transformation of the electricity system towards a fully renewable-based supply. The scenarios which have been published today ahead of the full report can be downloaded at http://www.umweltrat.de.

For further information, please contact Dr. Christian Hey
on +49 (0)30-26 36 96-0.
The Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU) was founded in 1971 to advise the German government. The Council is made up of seven university professors from a range of different environment-related disciplines. This ensures an encompassing and independent evaluation from a natural scientific and technical as well as from an economic, legal, ethical and political science perspective.
The Council has currently the following members:
Prof. Dr. Martin Faulstich (Chair), Technische Universität München Prof. Dr. Heidi Foth (Vice Chair), Universität Halle-Wittenberg Prof. Dr. Christian Calliess, Freie Universität Berlin Prof. Dr. Olav Hohmeyer, Universität Flensburg Prof. Dr. Karin Holm-Müller, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn Prof. Dr. Manfred Niekisch, Zoologischer Garten Frankfurt Prof. Dr. Miranda Schreurs, Freie Universität Berlin
German Advisory Council on the Environment Luisenstraße 46
10117 Berlin

Christian Simon | idw
Further information:
http://www.umweltrat.de

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