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Europe Could Go 100% Renewable By 2050

Earlier this month, the European Commission reported that the EU was on track to get 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. (Some countries, like Germany and Austria, are flying past their targets; others, like Italy, have lagged behind.) But how much further could Europe go? A new report from PricewaterhouseCoopers finds that the continent could get all of its electricity from renewable sources by mid-century—although it would take a major upgrade to the electrical grid:

A "super-smart" grid powered by solar farms in North Africa, wind farms in northern Europe and the North Sea, hydro-electric from Scandinavia and the Alps and a complement of biomass and marine energy could render carbon-based fuels obsolete for electricity by 2050, said the report.

The goal is achievable even without the use of nuclear energy, the mainstay of electricity in France, it said. ...

Achieving all-renewables electricity will depend less on new technology than on revamping Europe's legal and regulatory framework, the report argued: "Most of the technical components are available in principle already today."

Here's an earlier post on the Desertec proposal to put a bunch of concentrated solar plants in northern Africa and wire the electricity up to Europe. It's feasible, though not easy—the PWC report notes that the project would depend on unifying the European power market and then integrating it with North Africa's. Then again, that doesn't sound like that much more of a headache than the alternative: Under a variety of business-as-usual scenarios, the EU's projected to import about 70 percent of its energy by 2050, including loads of natural gas from Russia, which hasn't always been the most stable of suppliers. So the EU has plenty of reasons beyond climate change to want to decarbonize.

(Flickr photo credit: Martin Third)