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Exploring the macro-scale CO2 mitigation potential of photovoltaics and wind energy in Europe's energy transition

Usubiaga, A; Acosta-Fernández, J; McDowall, W; Li, F; (2017) Exploring the macro-scale CO2 mitigation potential of photovoltaics and wind energy in Europe's energy transition. Energy Policy , 104 pp. 203-213. 10.1016/j.enpol.2017.01.056. Green open access

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Abstract

Replacing traditional technologies by renewables can lead to an increase of emissions during early diffusion stages if the emissions avoided during the use phase are exceeded by those associated with the deployment of new units. Based on historical developments and on counterfactual scenarios in which we assume that selected renewable technologies did not diffuse, we conclude that onshore and offshore wind energy have had a positive contribution to climate change mitigation since the beginning of their diffusion in EU27. In contrast, photovoltaic panels did not pay off from an environmental standpoint until very recently, since the benefits expected at the individual plant level were offset until 2013 by the CO2 emissions related to the construction and deployment of the next generation of panels. Considering the varied energy mixes and penetration rates of renewable energies in different areas, several countries can experience similar time gaps between the installation of the first renewable power plants and the moment in which the emissions from their infrastructure are offset. The analysis demonstrates that the time-profile of renewable energy emissions can be relevant for target-setting and detailed policy design, particularly when renewable energy strategies are pursued in concert with carbon pricing through cap-and-trade systems.

Type: Article
Title: Exploring the macro-scale CO2 mitigation potential of photovoltaics and wind energy in Europe's energy transition
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.enpol.2017.01.056
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2017.01.056
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/)
Keywords: Climate change mitigation; Carbon payback time; Renewable energy; Technological innovation; CO2 emissions
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Bartlett School Env, Energy and Resources
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1540117
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