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Carbon Lock-Out: Advancing Renewable Energy Policy in Europe

Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, UFZ, Department of Economics, Permoserstr. 15, 04315 Leipzig, Germany
Technical University Berlin, Department of Economics of Climate Change, Straße des 17. Juni 145, 10623 Berlin, Germany
University of York, Environment Department, Heslington, York, YO10 5DD, UK
Bremer Energie Institut, Jacobs University Bremen, College Ring 2, Res V, 28759 Bremen, Germany
Consultant, Solmstr. 24, 10961 Berlin, Germany
Potsdam Institute for Climate Research, PIK, Telegraphenberg A 31, 14473 Potsdam, Germany
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Energies 2012, 5(2), 323-354;
Received: 1 November 2011 / Revised: 16 January 2012 / Accepted: 8 February 2012 / Published: 15 February 2012
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Energy Policy on Climate Change)
PDF [447 KB, uploaded 17 March 2015]


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. View Full-Text
Keywords: carbon lock-in; demand management; electricity; energy policy; feed-in tariff; electricity generation; grids; renewable energy sources; storage carbon lock-in; demand management; electricity; energy policy; feed-in tariff; electricity generation; grids; renewable energy sources; storage

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Lehmann, P.; Creutzig, F.; Ehlers, M.-H.; Friedrichsen, N.; Heuson, C.; Hirth, L.; Pietzcker, R. Carbon Lock-Out: Advancing Renewable Energy Policy in Europe. Energies 2012, 5, 323-354.

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