European researchers have developed an open-source online tool that can identify areas where renewable energy and synthetic fuels can be cost-effectively produced, where hydrogen hubs could be built, and where grid expansion is needed. It can be used in different sectors across 35 countries.

Researchers from the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands and Swiss university ETH Zürich have created an open-source online tool that can generate hundreds of scenarios under which Europe could become completely energy-independent by relying exclusively on renewables by 2050.

The platform uses data and scenarios outlined in a dedicated study to present 400 different energy system designs for the Old Continent.

“The study does not include the option to top up the system with energy from stable, non-fluctuating fossil fuel sources, yet finds there to be sufficient flexibility in a raft of other technologies that convert, store and distribute energy,” the scientists said.

The interactive tool compares different energy and technology mixes 

Image: TU Delft

The mapping tool can be used for different sectors and regions across 35 countries. It considers fluctuating flows of power, heat, hydrogen, synthetic hydrocarbons and biofuels on an hourly basis over a period of a year.

“To help manage fluctuating power output from wind and solar, platform users can vary their preferred system’s reliance on a range of flexible technologies and balancing mechanisms such as storage capacity, biofuels, intra-European energy distribution, and the electrification of transport and heat,” said TU Delft researcher Stefan Pfenninger. “By varying these factors at will, users can visualize the complex relationships and associated trade-offs within the energy system”

The tool also identifies areas where renewable energy and synthetic fuels can be cheaply produced, where hydrogen hubs can be built, and grid expansion is needed.

“The model and online platform enable researchers and decision-makers to analyse more clearly the conditions determining the creation of a green and self-sufficient energy system for Europe, along with the various options and trade-offs involved,” the researchers said.