Europe can become energy self-sufficient by 2030, but it comes with a hefty price tag - study

Renewable energy
Renewable energy Copyright Canva
By Doloresz Katanich with Reuters
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The European energy system could free itself from imports of gas and oil to the tune of €2 trillion, claims a new study.


Europe could power itself entirely from its own renewable energy sources from 2030 onwards as long as governments and private investors are willing to spend trillions of euros, according to a report led by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

This would mean that there would be no need to import electricity or energy resources for conversion into power from outside the continent from that point on.

It would take another decade to convert the entire energy system, including things such as heating currently powered by oil or gas, to renewables, according to the study.

This energy system, based on 100% renewable energies, would come with a drop in energy costs for consumers.

Setting up a truly self-sustainable energy sector in Europe comes at a cost of €2 trillion, according to the study.

Specifically, this means it will take an annual €140 billion by 2030 and €100 billion a year in the decade thereafter to get there.

However, as this is the equivalent of 75% of the EU’s current annual budget, it is important to note that the majority of this amount potentially could come from private investors, just like the International Monetary Fund suggests in its latest report.

While most of the funds would be needed for onshore wind expansion, solar, hydrogen and geothermal resources would be additional pillars of a strategy.

The scientific study - commissioned by Aquila Capital, one of Europe's largest private renewables investors - suggests that this energy system, based on 100% renewable energies, would come with a drop in energy costs for consumers and reduced vulnerability in times of geopolitical tensions.

"These figures are considerable, but it is important to remember that the European countries are estimated to have spent additional 792 billion euros in the last year just on the status quo system to protect consumers from the effects of the energy crisis introduced by the Russian invasion into Ukraine," the study said.

Could Europe become the first climate-neutral continent?

The EU's current renewable energy targets require 42.5% of EU energy to be renewable by 2030, with the aspiration to reach 45%.

While the study states that the goal could be much higher, it admits that the pathway there is a massive investment in developing renewable energy infrastructure, including building energy storage capacities and network, as well as investing in technology and skills.

Strategies are urgently needed to reduce the fossil fuel share of European energy both quickly and efficiently.

Investment is also needed in the area of digital technologies, according to the study.

For instance, artificial intelligence can help plan, store and deliver energy where and when it is needed.

The study cites the example of the US market where the nearly $400 billion (€379 billion) Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law a year ago, lines up massive tax breaks and subsidies on green technologies from electric cars to wind farms and battery production to advance clean energy production across the country over the next 10 years.

The study echoed industry criticism towards European regulation, asking for faster approval of projects to make sure targets were hit.

The report urges politicians to bring about incentives and ensure that investing in renewable energies is attractive enough to bring private funds to the market.

It said renewable energy supply would need to grow by 20% per year to meet expected power demand by 2030.

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