Environmental Assessment of Scenarios for Silicon Based Photovoltaic Electricity Generation in Europe
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In order to reduce the enhanced global warming caused by anthropogenic activity, new means of converting and exploiting energy is needed. Due to this the European Union (EU) has set ambitious targets for reductions in use of non-renewable energy and emissions. The directive on the promotion of use of energy from renewable sources is stating that by the year 2020, the European Union shall utilize 20% renewable energy out of the total primary energy use, and that green-house gas emissions should be reduced with 20% as well. One of the steps towards 2020 will be to increase the share for renewable energy sources in the electricity generating sector. Solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity is an emerging technology which has endured near exponential growth the last years. A survey on the potential for PV in the European electricity market was conducted. The survey showed that due to the fact that PV is a relatively young technology, it is depending on political and economical support in order for the PV industry to stand on its own feet, being a serious contender in the electricity market. Increased support leads to higher activity around PV, which would increase the opportunity for technological advances and exploit benefits of mass-production. Crystalline silicon based PV was chosen as the reference technology making up around 90% of the market. Three different scenarios, concerning different levels of political and economical support are studied in an environmentally extended multi-regional input-output assessment with detail on 23 European countries. Results show that the scenarios that are based on the highest level of support lead to the greatest share of PV in the European electricity market, being 6.47% in 2030 which is as much as 283 TWh of solar PV electricity. Under the assumption that new PV is substituting the demand of coal-power, the annual net reduction of green-house gasses was calculated to be 306 gigatonnes CO2 equivalents in 2030 compared to the baseline scenario. The net emission reductions are deducted increased emissions as a result of a growing PV-industry. Results from the assessment show that photovoltaic electricity is a potent way of reducing green-house gas emissions in Europe.