A revolution is underway in the European electricity sector: the transition to renewable energy. At the same time, the share of gas in the energy mix has been rapidly growing during the last decade, while coal and nuclear capacities are declining.
Unlike in Scandinavia, hydropower plays a small role in most European countries, and its potential for expansion is very limited. But the dramatic progress of other renewables, especially wind and solar, has changed the picture.
The key drivers of the renewables revolution are here to stay: climate change, the adverse envi- ronmental impacts of fossil fuels, the safety issues of nuclear power, Europe’s import dependency, the new jobs in the energy sector, economic stimulus, and technical innovation.
The costs of key renewables have been rapidly declining, while the costs of nuclear are rising; oil and gas will only become more expensive as their extraction becomes more challenging. This accelerates the trend towards renewables.
A number of other factors are reinforcing this development, including the EU’s 2020 renewable targets, the ongoing debate about the 2030 targets, and the strong growth of renewables in other parts of the world.
The scenarios of a future based on renewables have evolved accordingly. A number of studies show that very high shares (80 to 100%) of renewable electricity are not only technically possible by 2050, but will also contribute to economic prosperity.