Carbon Lock-Out: Advancing Renewable Energy Policy in Europe
As part of its climate strategy, the EU aims at increasing the share of electricity from renewable energy sources (RES-E) in overall electricity generation. Attaining this target poses a considerable challenge as the electricity sector is “locked” into a carbon-intensive system, which hampers the adoption of RES-E technologies. Electricity generation, transmission and distribution grids as well as storage and demand response are subject to important path dependences, which put existing, non-renewable energy sources at an advantage. This paper examines how an EU framework for RES-E support policies should be designed to facilitate a carbon lock-out. For this purpose, we specify the major technological, economic and institutional barriers to RES-E. For each of the barriers, a policy review is carried out which assesses the performance of existing policy instruments and identifies needs for reform. The review reveals several shortcomings: while policies targeting generation are widely in place, measures to address barriers associated with electricity grids, storage and demand are still in their infancy and have to be extended. Moreover, the implementation of policies has been fragmented across EU Member States. In this respect, national policies should be embedded into an integrated EU-wide planning of the RES-E system with overarching energy scenarios and partially harmonized policy rules.
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