At the heart of the zero-carbon economy will be an energy system that has moved beyond fossil power to renewables such as wind and solar. This means more than simply moving beyond coal. Europe must avoid falling into a new addiction to other polluting energy sources.
- The fastest and most effective way to cut European emissions and improve air quality is to move beyond coal. Coal currently accounts for 15% of EU GHG emissions and is responsible for nearly 20,000 premature deaths a year.
- Given the risks from the leakage of methane, which has a very high global warming potential, further investment in gas infrastructure is in conflict with the goals of the Paris agreement.
- Shifting to biomass would be another false solution, as in practice most industrial-scale bioenergy has comparable emissions to fossil energy when measured across the short window of time in which we must act on climate change.
- Low-carbon sources of bioenergy, such as wastes and residues, are in no way available at the scale needed to deliverthe massive energy requirements of sectors such as power generation and home heating.
- The European Union last year set a world-leading target for renewable electricity of 55% by 2030, but we have entered a period of stagnant investment at around 32%, and there is now an urgent need to drive forward renewable energy solutions.
The case for genuine zero-carbon renewables, such as wind and solar, is strong. Costs are falling rapidly, and in many cases, investments are starting to be made without subsidies. The reduction of costs of photovoltaics started in Germany and has been a major milestone. In the North Sea and Baltic especially, wind power is another success story, and is starting to compete with gas.
Investments in renewables in Europe have fallen for the third consecutive year. Renewable capacity is still rising overall, but the rate of increase has slowed to below the pace needed for the EU to remain on track for its goals under the Paris Agreement. It is therefore essential to mobilise our tools and grantees to facilitate the deployment of renewable energy at scale and to push for clean alternatives to gas.
We aim to work with civil society, industry and policymakers to remove the bottlenecks to renewable energy deployment, be they due to planning restrictions, insufficient access to affordable finance or poorly designed energy markets. By 2050, our investments should have helped enable the transition to an energy system that is efficient, smart, flexible and dominated by renewables.
How we work
The ECF supports organisations that deliver targeted expertise on renewables and electricity markets. We back research and analysis to show that a future based on renewables is not only possible but desirable. We support civil society partners in key countries to advocate for improved policies and to collaborate with corporate coalitions. We also seek to engage European citizens in the energy transition by promoting the production of renewable energy at home via rooftop solar and renewable energy cooperatives.