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Catching two European birds with one renewable stone

mitigating climate change and Eurozone crisis by an energy transition

Creutzig, Felix; Goldschmidt, Jan Christoph; Lehman, Paul; Schmid, Eva; Blücher, Felix von; Breyer, Christian; Fernandez Milan, Blanca; Jakob, Michael; Knopf, Brigitte; Lohrey, Steffen; Susca, Tiziana; Wiegandt, Konstantin

The threat of climate change and other risks for ecosystems and human health require a transition of the energy system from fossil fuels towards renewable energies and higher efficiency. The European geographical periphery, and specifically Southern Europe, has considerable potential for renewable energies. At the same time it is also stricken by high levels of public debt and unemployment, and struggles with austerity policies as consequences of the Eurozone crisis. Modelling studies find a broad optimum when searching for a cost-optimal deployment of renewable energy installations. This allows for the consideration of additional policy objectives. Simultaneously, economists argue for an increase in public expenditure to compensate for the slump in private investments and to provide economic stimulus. This paper combines these two perspectives. We assess the potential for renewable energies in the European periphery, and highlight relevant costs and barriers for a large-scale transition to a renewable energy system. We find that a European energy transition with a high-level of renewable energy installations in the periphery could act as an economic stimulus, decrease trade deficits, and possibly have positive employment effects. Our analysis also suggests that country- specific conditions and policy frameworks require member state policies to play a leading role in fostering an energy transition. This notwithstanding, a stronger European-wide coordination of regulatory frameworks and supportive funding schemes would leverage country-specific action. Renewed solidarity could be the most valuable outcome of a commonly designed and implemented European energy transition.
Published in: Renewable & sustainable energy reviews, 10.1016/j.rser.2014.07.028, Elsevier