An analysis of factors influencing renewable energy deployment in the EU’s electricity sector

Abstract: The EU has set itself ambitious short- and long-term decarbonisation targets: a reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. The power generation sector, currently responsible for around 55% of GHG emissions, is expected to contribute significantly to achieving the EU’s decarbonisation targets. Increasing the share of energy from renewable sources (RES), such as wind and solar, is an important step towards decarbonising the power generation sector. This dissertation analyses drivers, enablers, and barriers to renewable energy deployment in the EU’s electricity sector.The transition to power generation from renewable energy sources is strongly driven by targets and policies. In this dissertation, past RES deployment trajectories in selected EU Member States (MS) are studied to identify the most effective drivers to increasing deployment in the past as well as barriers that may potentially hinder its progress. A meta-analysis of previous studies shows the significant variance in projected levels of RES-E shares in the EU. While no study is expected to accurately predict future levels of RES-E, the meta-analysis showed their sensitivity to underlying data, assumptions, and methodologies. However, not all projection studies - and the energy strategies based on them – explicitly state their underlying assumptions.Technologies such as energy storage and smart grids can enable the increased penetration of variable RES by providing flexibility to the system. Here, the role and potential of large-scale electricity storage to enable higher shares of RES penetration is assessed using a combination of a long-term energy system (TIMES) and a power system model (PLEXOS). Further, the regulatory treatment of technologies such as energy storage is analysed and with suggested updates are provided to reflect their evolving role in the energy system. The thesis verifies findings in other studies that multiple benefits are required to justify battery storage in the EU until 2030. Further, this dissertation shows a clear correlation between degree of RES implementation and the value of storage. This is illustrated by the difference in feasibility of storage in the Reference scenarios and CO2 scenarios. Under current cost estimations and policy framework, there is no business case for large-scale electricity storage in the EU until 2030 with the technologies considered, but it may become feasible by 2050 in selected markets. Further studies - including how multiple benefits could be used and consideration of other storage technologies - would provide additional insights on the potential role of large-scale electricity storage. The current status of smart energy solutions - such as smart meters and demand side management – in the EU is also studied in this dissertation. The study finds that the current emphasis on smart meter roll-outs must be followed up with measures such as real-time pricing in order to achieve the full potential of smart energy solutions.Increasing the share of variable RES also brings with it significant challenges. As the EU moves towards an internal energy market, the role of cross-border interconnectors will become crucial. This dissertation highlights the role that cross-border interconnectors are expected to play - such as enabling large-scale integration of variable RES, preventing loss of load, and ensuring cost-effective power generation – through a power system model, with an hourly resolution, of the EU’s power system in 2030.Finally, the transition to a system with high shares of variable RES must be achieved while maintaining, or improving upon, the high level of reliability currently enjoyed in the EU. Valuing electricity interruptions differently between EU MS may lead to mismatched incentives to improve reliability levels through cross-border interconnectors. This dissertation, for this first time, quantifies the differences in value of lost load for households across all twenty-eight EU Member States.The EU is on track to meet its 2020 RES targets, which are legally binding at the Member State level. The targets set in the 2030 climate and energy framework are only legally binding at the EU level and this is seen as a risk since Member States may not be sufficiently incentivised to invest in RES deployment beyond 2020. This dissertation analyses selected drivers, barriers, and enablers of renewable energy deployment in the EU’s electricity sector to help achieve the EU’s stated decarbonisation targets. In particular, the potential role of large-scale electricity storage and cross-border interconnectors is highlighted as being of crucial importance. Finally, the variance in costs of electricity supply interruptions across the EU is also presented as a potential barrier to increased RES-E penetration.