As the Eurelectric Power Summit continues this week, Kristian Ruby, Secretary General of Eurelectric, weighs in on what he believes are the most significant developments in the energy sector in the past 25 years.
According to Ruby, the most significant development is the advances of electricity towards becoming a fully carbon-neutral energy vector. In several European countries, this is more or less a reality today, but over the next ten years I expect that we will take giant steps in this direction at pan-European level.
A combination of factors, including the technological developments in the field of solar and wind generation, batteries and EVs, artificial intelligence, and digitalisation, as well as the increased societal demand for transformation, has brought us to where we are now.
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Two thirds of Europe’s electricity is sustainable, clean and cost-efficient. What 25 years ago was an idealistic and unaffordable transformation, has now become the most cost-efficient way forward, courtesy of falling manufacturing prices, economies of scale and innovation.
It is now cheaper to produce electricity with renewables than to extract fossil fuels. Over the past decade, the cost of solar has dropped by 82% globally, while the costs of onshore and offshore wind have fallen by 40% and 29% respectively. This has pushed the fossil-fuelled electricity generation into terminal decline, with European coal-fired power plants closing at an accelerated pace.
In terms of the next 25 years, Ruby says: “I would like to see a fully decarbonised power sector by 2045. This increasingly clean electricity would be the fuel of choice, helping to decarbonise transport, heating and cooling, and industry.
“We are looking at a net-zero future, where decarbonised electricity powers 60% of Europe’s economy, with two thirds of the energy in transport and buildings being directly electrified.”
Ruby believes there is room for optimism with regards to our ability to decarbonise the power sector, so long as we get the right framework conditions. But the 2020s will be a decisive decade, where we need to lay the groundwork for our 2050 decarbonisation goals.