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In order to limit the rise in global temperature to 2 °C above the temperature in pre-industrial times, industrialized countries must reduce their CO2 emissions by 80–95 % by 2050. The electricity generation sector can make a major contribution to the desired emission reductions as in Germany it accounts for 40 % of all energy-related emissions. On the way to a low carbon or even carbon-neutral society, however, there are a number of possible paths depending on political and social priorities.
The German Federal Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt, UBA) has therefore been analyzing several “archetypes” of a future renewables-based power generation. Within this framework three radically different scenarios were developed in order to study the technical and ecological feasibility of Germany switching to an electricity supply based entirely on renewable sources by 2050. Apart from different generation structures, the studies assume different degrees of connection between individual regions in Germany and between Germany and other countries within a pan-European network.
In the “Local Energy Autarky” scenario (not yet published), small-scale decentralized energy systems use locally available renewable energy sources to satisfy their own power demand without being connected with each other or with outside suppliers, i.e., without electricity imports. In the “Regions Network” scenario (English version free download: http://www.umweltdaten.de/publikationen/weitere_infos/3997-0.pdf) (published in 2010), electricity is exchanged throughout Germany and only a small part of the load is covered by electricity imports from neighboring countries. In the “International Large Scale” scenario, Germany’s electricity supply is based on all renewable energy potentials in Germany, Europe, and its vicinity which can readily be tapped by large-scale technology projects and storage power plants. In this scenario, Germany imports much of its electricity demand via a well-developed intercontinental transmission grid.
By this approach it has been shown that a 100 % renewables-based power generation is technically and ecologically feasible without questioning Germany’s high living standard or its status as a highly industrialized country.
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English version: http://www.umweltdaten.de/publikationen/weitere_infos/3997-0.pdf. Other reputable institutions have also examined the feasibility of an electricity supply entirely based on renewable sources and published studies. For example, the publication “Pathways towards a 100 % renewable electricity system” by the German Advisory Council on the Environment SRU or “The Energy Report” by the World Wildlife Fund WWF presents scenarios which show how a 100 % renewables-based electricity supply can be realized. The core findings are that such a system can provide sufficient power at any time of year. The same applies to the study “Klimaschutz Plan B 2050” by Greenpeace. Other relevant studies are: “Long-Term Integration of Renewable Energy Sources into the European Energy System” by LTI Research Group (1998), or H. Lehmann et al. (2003), “Energy Rich Japan—A Vision for the Future.”
Still, further studies are currently being carried out examining other cases with high degrees of decentralized local electricity generation from renewable sources aiming at the benefits which may result from this archetype.
- Archetypes of 100 % Renewable Energies Scenarios by 2050