The Scientific Director for Research and Development at EDF says, despite advances being made, it is hard to see a future powered completely by renewable energy.

In an interview with Euractiv website, Jean Paul-Chabard said, “A 100% renewable energy system is still hard to manage. It is technically impossible and economically unsustainable.”
Jean Paul-Chabard of EDF
Chabard acknowledged the growth of renewables as a force in power generation but pointed out the considerable difficulties that remain in the way of any possibility of the world going 100 per cent green.

“We will still need complementary sources,” he said. “It will depend on the development of economically sustainable electricity storage. In order to build them we need batteries and for that we need raw materials. Are they sufficiently present on Earth to assure the necessary storage capacities? I don’t know.”

“We already see that the cost curve of intermittent renewables is strongly decreasing. Costs decreased for photovoltaic panels, for onshore wind, too. In the case of offshore wind, the costs will be high in the beginning. Electricity storage will develop. The drivers are there for us to see in this century a system with more intermittent renewables. Whether we will go towards 100%, I don’t know.”

Despite that growth in renewables that Achilles heel of intermittency remains an enduring problem, with the scientist saying the need for storage obvious, but ‘very costly.’

“Today we cannot build an economically sustainable system of 100% intermittent renewables. There are considerable issues. We would need considerable capacities to balance out the intermittency. It is not only necessary to bring to equilibrium supply and demand – that is the minimum – but also maintain the frequency. And for that we need systemic services. They are held today by European companies which rely on fossil-fired power. If you take them out, you will have a grid which is difficult to manage.”

Chabard also agreed with the notion of a Europe as being powered 50 per cent by renewables by the end of the century as ‘not completely unimaginable.’

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