As the world becomes ever more conscious of the need to conserve fossil fuels and move towards greener methods of energy production, the EC’s Joint Research Centre remains at the centre of efforts to spread the word. Here the group gives PES an overview of the current state of play and looks into its crystal ball to predict some possible future trends.
Spiking oil prices at $147.27 per barrel in July 2008 and speculations about when the oil price will exceed $200 per barrel have already become a reality. The enormous price fluctuations of oil prices during the last 12 months due to the volatility of the financial markets and economic turmoil, have highlighted our strong dependence on oil and have added an additional argument for the introduction of renewable energies: minimisation of price volatility risks. The Gas Crisis at the beginning of 2006 and the interruptions of the gas supply in the summer of 2008 and early 2009 have demonstrated that Europe is highly vulnerable with regards to its total energy supply. A possible solution is the diversification of supply countries, as well as the diversification of energy sources including renewable energies and photovoltaics (PV). In June 2009, the new European Directive on the “Promotion of the Use of Energy from Renewable Sources” came into force and does not only set mandatory targets for the Member States in 2020, but also gives a trajectory how to reach it. The aim of the Directive is to provide the necessary measures for Europe to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent in 2020 in order to support the worldwide stabilisation of the atmospheric greenhouse gases in the 450 to 550ppm range.
Photovoltaics is a key technology option to realise the shift to a decarbonised energy supply. The solar resources in Europe and worldwide are abundant and cannot be monopolised by one country. Regardless of for what reasons and how fast the oil price and energy prices increase in the future, PV and other renewable energies are the only ones to offer a reduction of prices rather than an increase in the future. As a response to the economic crisis, most of the G20 countries have designed economic recovery packages which include “green stimulus” measures. However, compared to the new Chinese Energy Revitalisation Plan under discussion, the pledged investments in green energy are marginal. If no changes are made, China which now strongly supports its renewable energy industry, will emerge even stronger after the current financial crisis.