Green energies need investment, standardized storage solutions and smart grids.

Is Europe still a leader in renewable energies?

The answer is yes, if you look at the continent’s technological progress, and no, if you consider its world market share, speakers pointed out at the SET Plan – Central European Energy Conference X.

Technological success

“In renewables, Europe is leading,” said Diego Pavía, CEO of KIC InnoEnergy.

The leadership is, according to Pavía, most obvious in offshore wind. The levelised cost of electricity (LCOE), a measure of power cost allowing for cross-source comparison, is at 5 eurocents per kWh in Europe. “We are ahead of the goal,” said Pavía adding that EU’s goal was less than ¢10. “Let’s keep on leading.”

In photovoltaic energy, where Europe is neither a leading producer, nor a leading consumer, “we benefit from low prices,” the expert thinks. However, “we can recover on the added value.”

Pavía also mentioned ocean energy. The tests showed LCOE at ¢16/kWh, while the target was at 20.

Having the market

In the next five years, the photovoltaic market will double. “Where is Europe?” asked Eicke R. Weber, President of the Association of Renewable Energy Research Centers (EUREC).

Weber warned that Europe should not let others distribute its technology. “We can be a leader only when we have the market in Europe,” he explained.

Igor Kočiš, CEO of GA Drilling, a Slovak company, develops geothermal energy. He works on what he believes is a new opportunity for Europe to sell its technologies to countries struggling to provide basic needs to its citizens – India, China and African countries.

Kočiš called geothermal energy a “sleeping beauty”. The major challenges are how to produce and manage it, he said, noting that geothermal has low operational costs.

Smart solutions

According to Pavía from KIC InnoEnergy, renewables in Europe need systemic approach and business models.

“Europe is good in systems thinking,” the expert said. His main concern is, how to fund the investment estimated by the European Commission at €177 billion. “The balance sheets of utilities have crushed. Who is going to pull?” he asked.
ENTSO-E Secretary-General Konstantin Stachus foresee in Europe a decrease in the cost of renewables as well as an “enormous” increase in their total capacity.

As a consequence, Europe will need smart grids for customers to manage consumption. “Yes, you can have demand response without smart grids, but it is going to be hard to make people feel fairly treated,” Stachus added.

Storing electricity

Weber from EUREC says the higher the share of renewables in the electricity mix, the smarter the system.

In Germany with 35 percent of renewables, the power disruption index has been cut from 20 to 12 minutes per year. “The system is smarter, renewables are more secure,” said Weber. In France, which counts mostly on nuclear power, the index is 55 minutes.

Rowena McCappin, Project Director at Glen Dimplex, world’s largest manufacturer of electric heating products, explained “how to make the best out of renewable electricity in buildings.” The company’s advanced heat pumps allow for storing electricity in the form of heat. The “smart electric thermal storage” is storing energy for future use.

Pavía from KIC InnoEnergy also says storage is key for the future of renewables. “Let’s encourage the homogeneity of market rules, it’s good for investors,” he concluded.

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The project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 785277.