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

Arkaitz Usubiaga, Acosta-Fernández, José, Will McDowall and Francis G.N. Li

Energy Policy, 2017, vol. 104, issue C, 203-213

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.

Keywords: Climate change mitigation; Carbon payback time; Renewable energy; Technological innovation; CO2 emissions (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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