Kate Mackenzie A gameplan for getting to 100% renewables

Switching to renweable power, as we frequently hear, is difficult. It’s unreliable, expensive, requires complicated changes to infrastructure, regularly falls foul of nimby-ism, and somewhat ironically, environmental problems.

At the same time, fossil fuels are not looking like being an easy option forever. Even if one overlooks climate change, other problems of pricing, supply, and geopolitics are increasingly apparent.

And now PriceWaterhouseCoopers has come up with a sketch of how Europe and North Africa could get 100 per cent of their electricity from renewable energy by 2050.

It would require:

- Policy changes

- Substantial investment, although the reports authors say that experience with other large infrastructure programmes shows the financing capacity “is there”

- A new market structure whereby all EU and North African countries could trade energy in real time

- New infrastructure and approaches to planning (including, of course, a smart grid)

Interestingly, and despite the emphasis on optimum location of resources and trading between countries, the report believes that such a system would result in a net decrease in power imports among the countries concerns.

The cost would be considerable – something as high as €100bn by 2030 – but this, the report says, is not large compared with existing support for renewables in European countries; for example, Germany has spent €40bn supporting solar and wind power.

The plan also involves:

- A regional power system based on a ‘supersmart’ grid

- The rapid scaling up of all forms of renewable power

- A unified European and North African power market, with free energy trading between all nations

- The production of electricity at the most suitable sites

- Providing affordable electricity for all

The introduction, by Professor Mike Hulme, says the paper “represents a major milestone in that effort of unravelling the Gordian knot of policy, and finding workable solutions”.

It’s a question that has been explored by academics including Professor Mark Jacobson of Stanford University and German physicist Gregor Czisch. David MacKay’s book, which is free online, is another in a similar vein.