Proven: 100% Renewable Energy Across Europe is More Cost Effective than the Current Energy System

A study has shown a strong political framework would facilitate a shift to 100% renewable energy even before 2050.


Anne-Sophie Garrigou

“100% renewables is not a stupid idea, in fact it’s getting more and more mainstream around the world,” exclaims Hans-Josef Fell, president of Energy Watch Group and father of the German Renewable Energy Sources Act. And how refreshing is it to hear this during this United Nations Climate Conference, where we’ve heard way too much noise coming from the fossil fuel and nuclear lobbies.

No pun intended here, but in this climate of scientific denial, it’s time to listen to independent research again! Energy Watch Group and LUT University combined their resources to work on a new research that proves the feasibility of a European energy transition to 100% renewable sources. The study has simulated a full energy transition in Europe across the power, heat, transport, and desalination sectors by 2050 and shows that the transition to 100% renewable energy will be economically competitive with today’s conventional fossil fuel and nuclear energy system. It will also lead greenhouse gas emissions to zero before 2050. So next time someone tells you that 100% renewables are not economically viable, just send him/her/them here.

“This report demonstrates that Europe can switch to a zero-emission energy system. Therefore, European leaders can and should do much more for climate protection than what is currently on the table.”   Hans-Josef Fell

So what does the study show?

Here comes the technical part. First, this transition will require mass electrification across all energy sectors. It is planned that total power generation will exceed four to five times that of 2015, with electricity constituting for more than 85% of primary energy demand in 2050. In this scenario, fossil fuels and nuclear are completely phased out across all sectors.

One of the most important findings of that research is that 100% renewable energy is not more expensive than our current system: The levelised cost of energy for a fully sustainable energy system in Europe remains stable, ranging from 50–60€/MWh through the transition.

Electricity generation in the 100% renewable energy system would consist of 62% solar Photovoltaics, 32% wind energy, 4% hydropower, 2% bioenergy and less than 1% of geothermal energy.

“The most important pillar of the climate protection strategy is not to reduce GHG, but to stop them altogether,” reminds Hans-Josef Fell. In fact, according to this groundbreaking study, Europe’s annual greenhouse gas emissions would decline steadily through the transition, from approximately 4200 MtCO2 eq. in 2015 to zero by 2050 across all sectors.

Last but not least “new jobs in renewables will over-compensate the lost jobs in fossil fuel sectors” explains Hans-Josef Fell, as a 100% renewable power system will employ 3 to 3.5 million people. The approximate 800,000 jobs in the European coal industry of 2015 would therefore be zeroed out by 2050, and would be overcompensated by more than 1.5-million new jobs in the renewable energy sector.

“The results of the study showcase that the current goals set forth under the Paris Agreement can and should be accelerated.” Dr Christian Breyer

The study concludes with policy recommendations to promote a swift uptake of renewable energy and zero-emissions technology adoption. Among the measures promoted in the report is the support of sector coupling, private investments, tax benefits and legal privileges, with a simultaneous phase out of coal and fossil fuel subsidies. “We should sanction energy companies producing Greenhouse Gases through fossil fuels and nuclear and we need more research, education and training towards a clean energy transition. Education is very important, not only in schools but also for the politicians, for the managers, for the media,” explains Hans-Josef Fell.

“This report demonstrates that Europe can switch to a zero-emission energy system. Therefore, European leaders can and should do much more for climate protection than what is currently on the table” he adds.By implementing strong political frameworks, the report shows that a transition to 100% renewable energy could even be realised earlier than 2050.

Barcelona, Masdar City, Munich, Vancouver, San Francisco, Copenhagen, Sydney, San Diego, Downtown Doha, these are some of the cities who have already committed to 100% renewable energy targets. “The energy transition is not a question of technical feasibility or economics, it is only a question of political will,” assures Hans-Josef Fell. There are no technological barriers, no excuses.


Hans-Josef Fell was a member of the German parliament from 1998 to 2013 in the Alliance 90/the Greens group and a co-author of the German Renewable Energy Sources Act 2000. He created Energy Watch Group, an independent, non-profit global network of scientists and parliamentarians, to commissions research, independent studies and analyses on global energy developments. Twitter: @HJFell


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