For Europe, reliable references are available to quantify the renewable energy potentials for wind, photovoltaics, concentrating solar power, geothermal, biomass, wave and tidal power. Those numbers already consider the availability of land area for the placement of the converters and other socio-economic and environmental restrictions. They can be considered as generally accepted.
The European renewable energy potential of about 40,000 PJ/y equals about twice the present electricity consumption and 75% of the present heat consumption in Europe. All in all it could supply 62 % of the present primary energy consumption in Europe. The use of those resources differs widely. About 80 % of the existing hydropower potential and 50 % of the biomass potential is already used today, while the other available resources are hardly used up to now.
Once renewable energy technologies are well established, their potentials could be extended in the long term by making use of further resources and technologies. Here are some examples:
- Use of wind-offshore potentials along the European coast lines with a potential of roughly 2.000 TWh/y of electricity;
- Energy crops on additional agricultural areas, especially in Eastern Europe, with a potential of about 30 million hectares equalling 3.500 PJ/y of primary energy;
- Use of geothermal energy in Western Europe with a potential of up to 1.700 TWh/y;
- Importing solar electricity from concentrating solar power plants from the MENA region in the frame of a Mediterranean renewable energy partnership with a potential of several 100,000 TWh/y which is well beyond the European electricity demand.
This sums up to a total renewable energy potential which would more than suffice to cover the European energy needs.
In the given scenarios, the renewable energy resources for power generation in Europe were assessed on the basis of different sources. The economical renewable energy potential for electricity generation in Europe not including solar electricity import is given with
- Hydro = 908 TWh/y
- Geo = 667 TWh/y
- Bio = 764 TWh/y
- CSP = 1584 TWh/y
- Wind = 1517 TWh/y
- PV = 154 TWh/y
- Water / Tide = 144 TWh/y
- Total = 5738 TWh/y
The total potential of about 5738 TWh/y exceeds by far the present and future electricity demand of around 3500-4000 TWh/y of the analysed countries.
We have taken into consideration the following renewable energy resources for power generation:
- Concentrating Solar Thermal Power Plants in Southern Europe and MENA)
- Photovoltaic Power (PV)
- Wind Speed (Onshore and Offshore Wind Power Plants)
- Hydropower Potentials from Dams and River-Run-Off Plants
- Heat from Deep Hot Dry Rocks (Geothermal Power)
- Biomass from Municipal and Agricultural Waste and Wood
- Wave and Tidal Power
Both the technical and economic potentials were defined for each renewable energy resource and for each country. The technical potentials are those which in principle could be accessed for power generation by the present state of the art technology.
For each resource and for each country, a performance indicator was defined that represents the average renewable energy yield with which the national potential could be exploited.
The economic potentials are those with a sufficiently high performance indicator that will allow new plants in the medium and long term to become competitive with other renewable and conventional power sources, considering their potential technical development and economies of scale.
The renewable energy potentials for power generation differ widely in the countries analysed within this study. They are more or less locally concentrated and not available everywhere, but can be distributed through the electricity grid.
The analysis shows the quantity and the geographic distribution of the different
renewable energy sources in Europe represented by the main performance indicators of each technology.
One of the pre-conditions of the electricity mix is that it must cover the power demand at any time, with a preset security margin of 25 % of minimum remaining reserve capacity. The different technologies of our portfolio contribute differently to secured power: fluctuating sources like wind and PV contribute very little, while fossil fuel plants contribute at least 90 % of their capacity to secure power on demand. Hourly time series of resource data for wind and solar radiation have been used to estimate those limitations. Besides of the total demand of electricity of each country, also the secured coverage of peaking demand has been used as frame condition for the scenario.
The individual country scenarios have been designed such that they satisfy this condition at any time of the year. One of the consequences of renewable energy scenarios is that the ratio of the total installed power plant capacity to peak load increases, or in other words, the average capacity factor of the power park decreases. The increasing capacity overhead is due to the fluctuating supply from wind and PV plants that have a rather low capacity factor and that do not contribute substantially to secured power.
However, this does not necessarily lead to an augmentation of fossil fuel based peaking duties, as there are a number of effects that compensate such fluctuations:
- temporal fluctuations of a large number of distributed wind or PV plants will partially compensate each other, delivering a much smoother capacity curve than single plants,
- temporal fluctuations of different, uncorrelated renewable energy resources will partially compensate each other, together delivering a much smoother capacity curve than one single resource
- fluctuations can be compensated by distribution through the electricity grid,
- biomass, hydro-, geothermal and solar thermal plants can deliver power on demand and be applied as renewable backup capacity for fluctuating inputs,
- load management can enhance the correlation of demand and renewable supply, fossil fuel fired peaking plants can be used for final adaptation to the load.
In effect, controlling many distributed, fluctuating and unpredictable elements within a power system is nothing new. Exactly the same occurs with the load induced by millions of consumers connected to the grid. All together deliver a relatively stable and predictable load curve. A large number of distributed renewable energy sources in a well balanced mix can even show a better adaptation to the time pattern of the load than nuclear or coal fired base load plants with a flat capacity curve.