Renewable energy in the European Union
Renewable energy plays an important and growing role in the energy system of the European Union. The share of energy from renewable sources in gross final consumption of energy was 18% in 2018. This is double the share in 2004 with 8.5%. The Europe 2020 strategy includes a target of reaching 20% of gross final energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020, and at least 32% by 2030. These figures are based on energy use in all its forms across all three main sectors, the heating and cooling sector, the electricity sector and the transport sector.
The share of renewable sources in gross final consumption of energy has grown in all member states since 2004. The leading state was Sweden with over half (54.6%) of its energy provided by renewable sources in 2018 in terms of gross final energy consumption, followed by Finland (41.2%), Latvia (40.3%), Denmark (36.1%) and Austria (33.4%). The lowest proportion of renewables in 2018 was recorded in the Netherlands (7.4%), Malta (8.0%), Luxembourg (9.1%) and Belgium (9.4%).
The renewable energy directive enacted in 2009 lays out a framework for individual member states to share the overall EU-wide 20% renewable energy target for 2020. Promoting the use of renewable energy sources is important both to the reduction of the EU's energy dependence and in meeting targets to combat global warming. The directive sets targets for each individual member state taking into account the different starting points and potentials. Targets for renewable energy use by 2020 among different member states varies from 10% to 49%. As of year end 2018, 12 EU member states had already met their national 2020 targets, two years ahead of schedule.
|%-Share of Renewable Energy in the EU28|
|History of the percentage-share of renewables on the gross final energy consumption in the European Union and United Kingdom since 2004|
The Maastricht Treaty signed in 1992 set an objective of promoting stable growth while protecting the environment. The Amsterdam Treaty of 1997 added the principle of sustainable development to the objectives of the EU. Since 1997, the EU has been working towards a renewable energy supply equivalent to 12% of the total EU's energy consumption by 2010.
The Johannesburg Summit in 2002 failed to introduce the radical changes targeted for ten years after the Rio Summit. No specific goals were set for the energy sector, which disappointed many countries. While the EU had proposed an annual increase in the use of renewable energy at a rate of 1.5% worldwide until 2010, Johannesburg's action plan did not recommend such a "substantial" increase, with no concrete goals nor dates being set. The EU was unwilling to accept this result and with other nations formed a group of "pioneer countries" that promised to establish ambitious national or even regional goals to achieve global targets. The Johannesburg Renewable Energy Coalition (JREC) has a total of more than 80 member countries; the EU members, Brazil, South Africa and New Zealand amongst them.
In the European Conference for Renewable Energy in Berlin in 2004, the EU defined ambitious goals of its own. The conclusion was that by 2020, the EU would seek to obtain 20% of its total energy consumption requirements with renewable energy sources. Up until that point, the EU had only set targets up to 2010, and this proposal was the first to represent the EU's commitment up to 2020.
Renewable energy directives and targets
In 2009, the Renewables Directive set binding targets for all EU Member States, such that the EU will reach a 20% share of energy from renewable sources by 2020 and a 10% share of renewable energy specifically in the transport sector. By 2014, the EU realized a 16% share of energy from renewable sources with nine member states already achieving their 2020 goals. By 2018, this had risen to 18% with twelve member states meeting their 2020 targets early.
Article 4 of the Renewables Directive required Member States to submit National Renewable Energy Action Plans by 30 June 2010. These plans, to be prepared in accordance with the template published by the commission, provide detailed roadmaps of how each Member State expects to reach its legally binding 2020 target for the share of renewable energy in their final energy consumption. Member States must set out the sectoral targets, the technology mix they expect to use, the trajectory they will follow and the measures and reforms they will undertake to overcome the barriers to developing renewable energy. The plans are published by the EC upon receipt in the original language, allowing public scrutiny. The commission will evaluate them, assessing their completeness and credibility. In parallel, the plans will be translated into English. In addition, the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands was contracted by the European Environment Agency to create an external database and quantitative report of the reports received so far.
In 2014, negotiations about EU energy and climate targets until 2030 were initiated. Whilst seven Central and Eastern European member states had already met their 2020 targets by 2016 (amongst the eleven EU wide), a small number of others are likely to attempt to slow down the transformation process. The key parts of the European renewable energy targets agreement set in 2014 are as proposed by a Shell lobbyist in October 2011. Shell is the sixth biggest lobbyist in Brussels, spending between €4.25-4.5m a year lobbying the EU institutions. Agreement has no binding targets for member states on energy efficiency or renewable energy.
On 30 November 2016, the Commission presented a proposal for a revised Renewable Energy Directive to ensure that the target of at least 27% renewables in the final energy consumption in the EU by 2030 is met and to ensure that the EU is a global leader in renewable energy.
Links to climate policy
Underlying many of the EU's energy policy proposals is the goal to limit global temperature changes to no more than 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, of which 0.8 °C has already taken place and another 0.5–0.7 °C (for total warming of 1.3-1.5 °C) is already committed. 2 °C is usually seen as the upper temperature limit to avoid 'dangerous global warming'. However some scientists, such as Kevin Anderson, professor of energy and climate change in the School of Mechanical, Aeronautical and Civil Engineering at the University of Manchester and former director of the Tyndall Centre, the UK's leading academic climate change research organisation, have argued that to be consistent with the science, 1 °C is a more accurate threshold for "dangerous" climate change.
Specific EU renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives includes:
- BUILD UP
- The Covenant of Mayors is a cooperative network of mayors and local authorities working to implement energy initiatives.
- Sustainable Energy Europe Campaign
- Intelligent Energy – Europe (IEE)
- U4energy is an initiative funded under the IEE programme to improve energy consumption in schools and their local communities.
In July 2015, the French parliament passed a comprehensive energy and climate law that includes a mandatory renewable energy target requiring 40% of national electricity production to come from renewable sources by 2030.
In 2016, renewable electricity accounted for 19.6% of France's total domestic power consumption, of which 12.2% was provided by hydroelectricity, 4.3% by wind power, 1.7% by solar power and 1.4% by bio energy.
- Nuclear: 80 TWh (14.7%)
- Brown Coal: 134.8 TWh (24.7%)
- Hard Coal: 100 TWh (18.3%)
- Natural Gas: 45.2 TWh (8.3%)
- Wind: 77.8 TWh (14.3%)
- Solar: 37.5 TWh (6.9%)
- Biomass: 49.3 TWh (9.0%)
- Hydro: 20.8 TWh (3.8%)
In 2014, Germany's share of renewable energy in gross final energy consumption increased by 1.4% to 13.8%. In 2004, renewables accounted for only 5.8% or about the same share as for the Netherlands in 2014 (5.5%).
In 2016, net generated electricity from renewable sources accounted for about 33.9%. Compared to the previous year, biomass, solar and wind changed their production by +4.8%, -3.1% and -1.7%, respectively, while weather permitting hydro power decreased by 10.3%. Wind and solar combined generated more energy than nuclear in 2016 (see pie-chart). Nuclear decreased production by 7.7%, while electricity generation from natural gas, brown and hard coal changed by +50.2%, -3.3% and -5.8%, respectively.
In 2014, 38.2% of Italian electric energy consumption came from renewable sources (in 2005 this value was 15.4%), covering 16.2% of the total energy consumption of the country (5.3% in 2005).
In 2016 Renewable energy in Lithuania constituted 28% of the country's overall electricity generation. The majority of renewable energy in Lithuania is from biofuel. The principal source of electricity from renewable resources is from hydropower.
Lithuania has many yet undeveloped renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, geothermal energy, municipal waste, and biomass. The amount of biomass per capita in Lithuania is one of the highest in the European Union and it is estimated that in 2020 Lithuania will be the first in the EU according to the quantity of available biomass for biofuel production. The projected production of biofuels by 2020 is 0.25 tons per capita.
In 2010, more than 50% of all yearly electricity consumption in Portugal was generated from renewable energy sources. The most important generation sources were hydroelectric (30%) and wind power (18%), with bioenergy (5%) and photovoltaic solar power (0.5%) accounting for the rest. In 2001, the Portuguese government launched a new energy policy instrument – the E4 Programme (Energy Efficiency and Endogenous Energies), consisting of a set of multiple, diversified measures aimed at promoting a consistent, integrated approach to energy supply and demand. By promoting energy efficiency and the use of endogenous (renewable) energy sources, the programme seeks to upgrade the competitiveness of the Portuguese economy and to modernize the country's social fabric, while simultaneously preserving the environment by reducing gas emissions, especially the CO2 responsible for climatic change. As a result, in the five years between 2005 and 2010, energy production from renewable sources increased 28%.
The renewable energy produced in Portugal fell from 55.5% of the total energy produced in 2016 to 41.8% in 2017, due to the drought of 2017, which severely affected the production of hydro electricity. The sources of the renewable energy that was produced in Portugal in 2017 were Wind power with 21.6% of the total (up from 20.7% in 2016), Hydro power with 13.3% (down from 28.1% in 2016), Bioenergy with 5.1% (same as in 2016), Solar power with 1.6% (up from 1.4% in 2016), Geothermal energy with 0.4% (up from 0.3% in 2016) and a small amount of Wave power in the Azores. 24% of the energy produced in the Azores is geothermal.
Portugal had the second largest photovoltaic power station in the world, which was completed in December 2008. The complex, called Amareleja photovoltaic power station, covers an area of 250-hectare. The 46-megawatt solar power plant produces enough electricity for 30,000 homes and saves more than 89,400 tons a year in greenhouse gas emissions. Also in production since January 2007, the Serpa solar power plant with an installed capacity 11MW, covers an area of 60-hectare, produces enough energy for 8,000 homes and saves more than 30,000 tons a year in greenhouse gas emissions. These solar parks are approximately 30 km apart.
Spain as a whole has the target of generating 30% of its electricity needs from renewable energy sources by 2010, with half of that amount coming from wind power. In 2006, 20% of the total electricity demand was already produced with renewable energy sources, and in January 2009 the total electricity demand produced with renewable energy sources reached 34.8%.
Some regions of Spain lead Europe in the use of renewable energy technology and plan to reach 100% renewable energy generation in few years. Castilla y León and Galicia, in particular, are near this goal. In 2006 they fulfilled about 70% of their total electricity demand from renewable energy sources.
In 2005, Spain became the first country in the world to require the installation of photovoltaic electricity generation in new buildings, and the second in the world (after Israel) to require the installation of solar hot water systems.
Energy Community countries
Also the Contracting Parties of the Energy Community, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, North Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia and Ukraine implement the Directive 2009/28/EC since September 2012. The shares for the Contracting Parties were calculated based on the EU methodology and reflect an equal level of ambition as the targets fixed for EU Member States. The targets for the share of renewable energy in Contracting Parties in 2020 are the following: Albania 38%, Bosnia and Herzegovina 40%, Kosovo* 25%, North Macedonia 28%, Moldova 17%, Montenegro 33%, Serbia 27% and Ukraine 11%. The deadline for transposing the Directive 2009/28/EC and the adoption of the National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) was set for 1 January 2014.
With the Decision 2012/03/MC-EnC and the acceptance of binding targets Contracting Parties can participate in all cooperation mechanisms. This means in particular that statistical transfers of renewable energy for the purposes of target achievement will be possible independently from physical flow of electricity. In addition, the decision lays down a number of adaptations to the rules for statistical transfers and joint support schemes between the Contracting Parties and EU Member States to ensure the original objectives of the RES Directive are preserved.
Renewable energy sources
Biomass is material from plants or animals such as wheat stalks, yard waste, corn cobs, manure, wood or sewage. Wood and other solid biofuels supply the largest proportion of renewable energy in the EU at 64% of primary renewable energy. Biomass is burned both for heating and electrical generation, often in the form of pellet fuel.
Biofuels offer an alternative plant-based solution to rising problems regarding geological fuel sources. Chemically, biofuels are alcohols produced by fermenting raw materials from starch and sugars. While complete substitution is not yet common in Europe, countries like Germany have been using E10 fuel consisting of 10% ethanol since 2011. E10 fuels have replaced the previous E5 fuel, containing 5% ethanol.
Although this may seem like a slight increase in ethanol use, this progression reflects a more progressive Europe as improvements are being made based primarily upon environmentally conscious efforts, rather than geopolitical or economic pressures.
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Research from a wide variety of sources in various European countries shows that support for wind power is consistently about 80% among the general public.
Installed Wind power capacity in the European Union totalled 93,957 megawatts (MW) in 2011, enough to supply 6.3% of the EU's electricity. 9,616 MW of wind power was installed in 2011 alone, representing 21.4% of new power capacity. The EU wind industry has had an average annual growth of 15.6% over the last 17 years (1995-2011).
A 2009 European Environment Agency report, entitled Europe's onshore and offshore wind energy potential confirms wind energy could power Europe many times over. The report highlights wind power's potential in 2020 as three times greater than Europe's expected electricity demand, rising to a factor of seven by 2030. An EWEA report overviewing 2009 data estimated that 230 gigawatts (GW) of wind capacity will be installed in Europe by 2020, consisting of 190 GW onshore and 40 GW offshore. This would produce 14-17% of the EU's electricity, avoiding 333 million tonnes of CO2 per year and saving Europe €28 billion a year in avoided fuel costs.
In 2018 wind energy generated enough electricity to meet 14% of the EU's electricity demand. Denmark had the highest share of wind (41%) in Europe, followed by Ireland (28%) and Portugal (24%). Germany, Spain and the UK follow with 21%, 19% and 18% respectively. Out of the EU's total electricity consumption of 2,645 TWh in 2018, onshore wind contributed 309 TWh (12%) and offshore wind contributed 53 TWh (2%), bringing the total contribution of wind energy to 362 TWh (14%). The energy comes from a total onshore wind capacity of 160 GW and a total offshore wind capacity of 18.5 GW, with an average capacity factor of 24%.
Photovoltaic solar power
Description: PV solar power are solar modules that are used to generate electricity.
2012 17.2 GW of PV capacity were connected to the grid in Europe, compared to 22.4 GW in 2011; Europe still accounted for the predominant share of the global PV market, with 55% of all new capacity in 2012.
2002, The world production of photovoltaic modules surpassed 550 MW, of which more than the 50% was produced in the EU. Within 15 years even a small country in Europe might expect to exceed this amount in domestic installations.
Concentrated solar power
Description: CSV power can generate either heat or electricity according to the type used. One advantage of concentrated solar power (CSP) is the ability to include thermal energy storage to provide power up to 24 hours a day.
2015 The first commercial application of a new form of CSP called STEM will take place in Sicily . This has generated considerable academic and commercial interest internationally for off-grid applications to produce 24 hour industrial scale power for mining sites and remote communities in Italy, other parts of Europe, Australia, Asia, North Africa and Latin America. STEM uses fluidized silica sand as a thermal storage and heat transfer medium for CSP systems. It has been developed by Salerno-based Magaldi Industries.
Solar heating and cooling
Description: Solar heating is the usage of solar energy to provide space or water heating.
2016 At present the EU is second after China in the installations.
2010 If all EU countries used solar thermal as enthusiastically as the Austrians, the EU's installed capacity would already be 91 GWth (130 million m2 today, far beyond the target of 100 million m2 by 2010, set by the White Paper in 1997).
2008 The research efforts and infrastructure needed to supply 50% of the energy for space and water heating and cooling across Europe using solar thermal energy was set out under the aegis of the European Solar Thermal Technology Platform (ESTTP). Published in late December 2008, more than 100 experts developed the strategic research agenda (SRA), which includes a deployment roadmap showing the non-technological framework conditions that will enable this ambitious goal to be reached by 2050.
2005 Worldwide usage was 88 GWthermal . Growth potential is enormous. Solar heating in the EU was equivalent to more than 686.000 tons of oil.
Description:Wave power is used to generate electricity.
2008 The world's first commercial wave farm is located at the Aguçadora Wave Park near Póvoa de Varzim in Portugal. The farm which uses three Pelamis P-750 machines was officially opened in by the Portuguese minister for the economy.
2007 Funding for a wave farm in Scotland using four Pelamis machines was announced on 20 February by the Scottish Executive. The funding of just over £4 million is part of a £13 million funding package for marine power in Scotland. The farm, is to be located at the European Marine Test Centre (EMEC) off the coast of Orkney and will have an installed capacity of 3MW.
The Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, FCH JU, is a public private partnership supporting research, technological development and demonstration activities in fuel cell and hydrogen energy technologies in Europe. Its aim is to accelerate the market introduction of these technologies. The HyFLEET:CUTE is a project bringing together many partners from industry, government, academic and consulting organisations. It is intended that 47 hydrogen powered buses will operate in regular public transport service in 10 cities on three continents. Many of the HyFLEET:CUTE project partners have been involved in previous hydrogen transport projects, most notably the CUTE, ECTOS and STEP projects.
The renewable energy industry have offered new work opportunities in the EU during 2005–2009.
|Jobs by the renewable |
energy industry in the EU
Employment in the renewable energy industry has however fallen every year since 2011, reaching 34,300 jobs in 2016, according to annual data from the International Renewable Energy Agency. IRENA says economic crises and adverse policy conditions led to reduced investments in renewable energy in the EU.
In 2012, the use of intermittent renewable energy caused, according to the German newspaper Der Spiegel, increasing electricity prices and grid instability induced power outages, created by renewable energy usage. It is also claimed by German heavy industry spokesmen that this has forced their industries to close, move overseas, and resulted in the loss of German heavy industry jobs.
In 2010 renewables avoided €30bn in imported fuel costs. In 2010 EU supported renewable energy with €26bn.
Installed wind power capacity
Total installed capacity
As of the end of 2013, cumulative capacity of solar PV accounted for almost 79 gigawatts and generated more than 80 terawatt-hours in the European Union. Including non-EU countries, a total of 81.5 GW had been installed. Although Europe has lost its leadership in solar deployment, the continent still accounts for about 59 percent of global installed photovoltaics. Solar PV covered 3 percent of the electricity demand and 6 percent of the peak electricity demand in 2013. Grid-connected photovoltaic power systems account for more than 99 percent of the overall capacity, while stand-alone photovoltaic power system have become insignificant.
|2013 - photovoltaic Barometer Report - PV Capacity in the European Union|
|Country||Added 2014 (MW)||Total 2014 (MW)||Generation 2014|
|Added 2014 (MW)||Total 2014 (MW)||Generation 2014|
Source: EUROBSER'VER (Observatoire des énergies renouvelables) Photovoltaic Barometer - installations 2014
|Consumption 2005 (GWh)||Consumption 2006 (GWh)||Consumption 2007 (GWh)|
|8||Italy||2 059||1,732||1,732||0||1,621||1 621||0|
|*Total includes vegetable oils in Germany: 7309 GWh (2006) and 2018 GWh (2005) and biogas in Sweden: 225 GWh (2006) and 160 GWh (2005), n.a. = not available|
- List of energy storage projects
- List of renewable energy topics by country
- Climate change in the European Union
- Economy of the European Union
- EKOenergy ecolabel for energy
- Energy Community
- Energy efficiency in Europe (study)
- Environment in the European Union
- Eugene Green Energy Standard
- European Energy Research Alliance
- European Renewable Energy Council
- European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA).
- European Pollutant Emission Register (EPER)
- Fraunhofer Society
- Intelligent Energy Europe
- Renewable energy commercialization
- Renewable energy development
- Renewables Directive
- Transport in the European Union
- European countries by fossil fuel use (% of total energy)
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Renewable energy in the European Union.|
- Eurostat - Statistics Explained - Renewable energy statistics
- Europe's Energy Portal European platform for energy efficiency and renewable energy.
- Directive 2009/28/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources
- ManagEnergy, for energy efficiency and renewable energies at the local and regional level.
- Reegle: Information Gateway For Renewable Energy And Energy Efficiency
- 34% from renewables in the EU by 2020?
- REPAP2020 Project: Renewable energy policy action paving the way towards 2020
- All EurObserv'ER barometers - The state of renewable energies in Europe