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WIREs Energy Environ.
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Trends toward 100% renewable electricity supply in Germany and Europe: a paradigm shift in energy policies

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In industrialized countries such as Germany, electricity production contributes 30–40% of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the country. Confronted with GHG emission reductions targets of 80–95% by 2050 and with some GHG emitting sectors confronted with great difficulties to reach such targets, such as agriculture, the power sector will need to reduce its GHG emissions virtually to zero. As nuclear energy involves very substantial accident risks and the unsolved problem of safe long‐term deposit of nuclear waste and as carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) has rather limited safe storage potentials at least in Europe, the question arises, whether it will be possible to supply 100% of all necessary electricity from renewable energy sources? We show that a fast expanding volume of analyses underlines the feasibility and reliability of 100% renewable electricity supply systems. This fast mounting evidence appears to mark the beginning of a paradigm shift in energy politics, as highly regarded national and international advisory bodies such as the IPCC or the German Council of Environmental Advisors start to adopt this perspective. The example of the highly publicized study of the German Council of Environmental Advisors shows how a 100% renewable electricity system for Germany, Europe, and North Africa could look in 2050 and how the transition toward such a system could be achieved. This study, conducted with major input from the authors, is used to show the major aspects of a 100% renewable electricity supply system, such as the security of supply in every hour of the year, the compensation of intermittent sources such as wind and solar PV energy by other renewables and expanded storage, and the necessary extension of national and international grid infrastructures. WIREs Energy Environ 2015, 4:74–97. doi: 10.1002/wene.128 This article is categorized under: Energy and Development > Economics and Policy
Overview of the model structure of the techno‐economic optimization model REMix‐Europe of Deutsches Zentrum für Luft‐ und Raumfahrt (DLR) used for all calculations for the German Council of Environmental Advisors (SRU) analysis.
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Comparison of the electricity costs of the sketched transition system to 100% renewable energy‐based power supply to a considerable and a moderate development of future conventional electricity production costs (based on scenario 2.1.a). (Reproduced with permission from Ref , p. 155. Copyright 2012, Sacherständlgenrat für Umweltfragen)
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The development of future conventional and renewable energy‐based electricity production cost including storage and international and national transmission costs (based on scenario 2.1.a). (Reproduced with permission from Ref , p. 153. Copyright 2012, Sacherständlgenrat für Umweltfragen)
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The necessary expansion pathway of the renewable power generation capacities in Germany to close the demand gap based on scenario 2.1.a. (Reproduced with permission from Ref , p. 117. Copyright 2012, Sacherständlgenrat für Umweltfragen)
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Gap between electricity demand and remaining conventional power generation potential. (Reproduced with permission from Ref , p. 111. Copyright 2012, Sacherständlgenrat für Umweltfragen)
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Assumed evolution of Germany's conventional thermal power plant fleet including power plants under construction and gas‐fired power plants in advanced planning in early 2010 assuming a 35‐year life span for all power plants. (Reproduced with permission from Ref , p. 106. Copyright 2012, Sacherständlgenrat für Umweltfragen)
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Specific costs of renewable electricity production in scenario 3.a including production, storage, and transmission costs. (Reproduced with permission from Ref , p. 428. Copyright 2012, Sacherständlgenrat für Umweltfragen)
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Imports and exports of electricity in scenario 3.a in TWh/a and in per cent of the national demand. (Reproduced with permission from Ref , p. 429. Copyright 2012, Sacherständlgenrat für Umweltfragen)
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Hourly production meets hourly demand in Germany, Denmark, and Norway in scenario 2.1.a. Negative values are either stored or overproduced electricity. (Reproduced with permission from Ref , p. 90. Copyright 2012, Sacherständlgenrat für Umweltfragen)
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Sketch of the Norwegian hydropower system Sira‐Kvina. (Source: Ref , p. 8)
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The lack of adequate storage in Germany is especially evident in May 2050 in scenario 1.a [calculations done for Ref by Deutsches Zentrum für Luft‐ und Raumfahrt (DLR)]. (Reproduced with permission from Ref . Copyright 2012, Sacherständlgenrat für Umweltfragen)
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Hourly production meets hourly demand in Germany in 2050 in scenario 1.a. Negative values are either stored or overproduced electricity. (Reproduced with permission from Ref , p. 85. Copyright 2012, Sacherständlgenrat für Umweltfragen)
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Renewable electricity generation potential in Europe–North Africa, in TWh/a as a function of per kWh costs. (Reproduced with permission from Ref , p. 77. Copyright 2012, Sacherständlgenrat für Umweltfragen)
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Renewable electricity generation potential in Germany, in TWh/a as a function of per kWh costs. (Reproduced with permission from Ref , p. 72. Copyright 2012, Sacherständlgenrat für Umweltfragen)
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Assumed cost development for the various renewable electricity generation technologies until 2050. (Reproduced with permission from Ref , p. 149. Copyright 2012, Sacherständlgenrat für Umweltfragen)
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