Justification for indicator selection
Electricity generated from renewable energy sources generally tends to have lower environmental impact (e.g. greenhouse gas (GHG) and air pollution emissions) over the entire life-cycle of the production chain than electricity generated from fossil fuels. An increased share of renewable electricity will thus help the EU to meet its targets on GHG and air pollution emissions and generally reduce the impact of electricity production on the environment and human health. In addition, electricity consumption is likely to increase in the future due to changing life-styles and expected penetration of electric vehicles. A higher share of renewable energy will thus help to diminish the environmental pressures stemming from the electricity production and transport in the future.
This indicator is closely linked with ENER 38, ENER 28 and ENER 29.
The share of renewable electricity is the ratio between the electricity produced from renewable energy sources and gross national electricity consumption, expressed as a percentage. It measures the contribution of electricity produced from renewable energy sources to the national gross electricity consumption.
Renewable energy sources are defined as renewable non-fossil energy sources: wind, solar, geothermal, wave, tidal, hydropower, biomass, landfill gas, sewage treatment plant gas and biogases. Electricity produced from renewable energy sources comprises the electricity generation from hydro plants (excluding that produced as a result of pumping storage systems), wind, solar, geothermal and electricity from biomass/wastes. Electricity from biomass/wastes comprises electricity generated from wood/wood wastes and the burning other of solid wastes of a renewable nature (straw, black liquor), municipal solid waste incineration, biogas (incl. landfill, sewage, farm gas) and liquid biofuels. Gross national electricity consumption comprises total gross national electricity generation from all fuels (including autoproduction), plus electricity imports, minus exports.
Electricity generation is measured in either GWh or TWh (1000 GWh). The share of elecrticity generated from renewable energy sources is express as percentage.
Policy context and targets
The share of electricity production from renewable energy sources provides a broad indication of progress towards reducing the environmental impact of electricity production on the environment. Increasing the share of renewables in electricity production will help the EU to reduce the GHG emissions from power generation but the overall impact will depend on which generation sources are being replaced in the energy system.
Emissions of air pollutants are also generally lower for renewable electricity production than for electricity produced from fossil fuels. The exception to this is the incineration of Municipal and Solid Waste (MSW), which due to high costs of separation, which usually involves the combustion of some mixed wastes including materials contaminated with heavy metals. MSW incineration also causes emission of particulate matter which, depending to what degree the waste is burned and at what temperature, can be higher than those from fossil fuel combustion. Lower temperatures cause larger particles to be emitted, which can be linked to respiratory diseases. Emissions to the atmosphere from MSW incineration are subject to stringent regulations including tight controls on emissions of cadmium, mercury, and other such substances.
The implementation of renewable energy sources may have negative impacts on landscapes, habitats and ecosystems, although many impacts can be minimised through careful site selection. Hydropower schemes in particular can have adverse impacts including flooding, disruption of ecosystems and hydrology, and socio-economic impacts if resettlement is required (for large hydro). Some solar photovoltaic schemes require relatively large quantities of heavy metals in their construction and geothermal energy can release pollutant gases carried by hot fluids if not properly controlled. Wind turbines can have visual impacts on the areas in which they are sited. Some types of biomass and biofuel crops have considerable land, water and agricultural input requirements such as fertilisers and pesticides.
That said, renewable energy is by nature more sustainable than the combustion of fossil fuels, and in many cases more efficient. It will undoubtedly play a big part in curbing the atmospheric concentration of CO2 at 450ppm, which is commonly understood to be the safe limit. By continuing to burn fossil fuels, we would continue to raise atmospheric CO2 which poses unknown risks to ecosystems, possibly far greater than those from renewable energy implementation.
DIRECTIVE 2001/77/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 27 September 2001 on the promotion of electricity produced from renewable energy sources in the internal electricity market.
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 and amending and subsequently repealing Directives 2001/77/EC and 2003/30/EC sets an indicative target of 21% of renewable electricity in gross electricity consumption in 2010 at EU level. Fulfilling this target will also help meeting the new, mandatory target of 20% renewables in final energy consumption in 2020 set by the Directive 2009/28/EC (see also ENER 28).
Communication from the Commission; COM(2012) 271- Renewable Energy: a major player in the European energy market.
Energy 2020 – A strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy (COM(2010) 639 final): Energy efficiency is the first of the five priorities of the new energy strategy defined by the Commission.
The European Strategic Energy Technology Plan; COM(2007) 723 focuses on bringing new renewable energy technologies to market competitiveness.
The Directive 2009/28/EC of the European parliament and of the Council on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources and amending and subsequently repealing Directives 2001/77EC and 2003/30/EC
- Directive 2009/29/EC of the European parliament and of the Council amending directive 2003/87/EC so as to improve and extend the greenhouse gas emission allowance trading scheme of the community
- Directive 2009/31/EC of the European parliament and of the Council on the geological storage of carbon dioxide
- Community guidelines on state aid for environmental protection (2008/c 82/01)
- Directive 2008/101/EC of the European parliament and of the Council amending directive 2003/87/EC so as to include aviation activities in the scheme for greenhouse gas Emission allowance trading within the community
- Regulation (EC) no 443/2009 of the European parliament and of the Council setting emission performance standards for new passenger cars as part of the community’s integrated approach to reduce CO2 emissions from light-duty vehicles
According to the renewable electricity directive (2001/77/EC), the overall EU-27 target is a share of 21.0 % of renewable electricity in gross electricity consumption by 2010. In 2010, the share was 21.5 % and the overall EU-27 target met. However, the EU target has been met by some Member States compromising for the 12 that did not meet their national targets (Austria, Cyprus, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Sweden and the United Kingdom).
Related policy documents
Regulation (ec) no 443/2009 of the European parliament and of the Council setting emission performance standards for new passenger cars as part of the community's integrated approach to reduce CO2 emissions from light-duty vehicles.
Directive 2008/101/ec of the European parliament and of the Council amending directive 2003/87/ec so as to include aviation activities in the scheme for greenhouse gas Emission allowance trading within the community
Community guidelines on state aid for environmental protection (2008/c 82/01)
Directive 2009/28/ec of the European parliament and of the Council on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources
Directive 2009/29/ec of the European parliament and of the Council amending directive 2003/87/ec so as to improve and extend the greenhouse gas emission allowance trading scheme of the community.
Directive 2009/31/ec of the European parliament and of the Council on the geological storage of carbon dioxide.
Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-plan); COM(2007) 723
COM(2008) 16 final
Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2003/87/EC so as to improve and extend the greenhouse gasemission allowance trading system of the Community
COM(2010) 639 final: Energy 2020 – A strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy
A strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy
COM(2012) 271 final
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: “Renewable Energy : a major player in the European energy market”
DIRECTIVE 2001/77/EC Renewable electricity
Directive 2001/77/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 September 2001 on the promotion of electricity produced from renewable energy sources in the internal electricity market
Key policy question
What is the share of each renewable source in total electricity production in Europe?
Methodology for indicator calculation
Eurostat Datasets Used:
- Energy Statistics - quantities (nrg_quant)
- Energy Statistics - supply, transformation, consumption (nrg_10)
- Supply, transformation, consumption - electricity - annual data (nrg_105a)
- Supply, transformation, consumption - renewables (hydro, wind, photovoltaic) - annual data(nrg_1072a)
These were downloaded in CSV format, and then manipulated using pivot tables. The data displayed in each pivot table can be viewed by checking the filter options applied, and reading the labels next to the pivot tables in blue text.
Gross Inland Consumption: 100900
Total Gross Production: 107000
Gross Electricity Generation (all renewable energy sources): 108XXX
- Autoproducer CHP plants
- Autoproducer Electricity only
- Main activity CHP plants
- Main activity Electricity only
Average annual rate of growth calculated using: [(last year/base year) ^ (1/number of years) –1]*100
IEA data set:
- Report ‘Electricity Information’, table ‘OECD, Electricity and Heat Generation’, balance ‘Gross Electricity Production (GWh)’, plant ‘Total plants’, products ‘Hydro’, ‘Pumped Hydro Production’, ‘Geothermal’, ‘Solar’, ‘Tide, Wave and Ocean’, ‘Wind’, ‘Municipal Waste (renew)’, ‘Municipal Waste (non-renew)’, ‘Wood/Woodwaste/Other solid waste’, ‘Landfill Gas’, ‘Sewage Sludge Gas’, ‘Other Biogas’, ’Liquid Biofuels’, ‘Non-specified comb. renew and waste’, ‘Non-specified comb. fuels for Heat’, ‘Other Sources’ and ‘Total Sources [Eurostat 100100 Primary production (5510 Hydro power) equals IEA Hydro -/- Pumped Hydro Production (<1% difference)]
- Report ‘Energy Balances of OECD-countries’, table ‘Energy Balances’, product ‘Electricity’, flow ‘Import’, ‘Export’
- Share renewables electricity in total electricity consumption(%) calculated by (Sum Renewables) / (Gross Electricity Generation Total Sources + Imports -/- Exports) in TWh.
EIA data set:
- International Electricity Generation, 6.3 World Total Net Electricity Generation, 2.6 World Net Hydroelectric Power Generation, 2.8 World Net Geothermal, Solar, Wind, and Wood and Waste Electric Power Generation.
The Agency had 32 member countries at the time of writing of this fact sheet. These are the 27 European Union Member States and Turkey, plus Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. No data was available for Iceland and Liechtenstein - data available at Eurostat-
Data for World, United States, China, India, Africa and the Middle East –IEA /DOE data-
Methodology and frequency of data collection:
Data collected annually.
Eurostat definitions and concepts for energy statistics http://circa.europa.eu/irc/dsis/coded/info/data/coded/en/Theme9.htm
Methodology for gap filling
No gap filling necessary
No methodology references available.
EEA data references
- No datasets have been specified here.
External data references
Data sources in latest figures
The renewables electricity directive (2001/77/EC) defines the share of renewable electricity as the percentage of electricity produced from renewable energy sources in gross electricity consumption. The numerator includes all electricity generated from renewable sources, most of which is for domestic use. The denominator contains all electricity consumed in a country, thus including imports and excluding exports of electricity. Therefore, the share of renewable electricity can be higher than 100 % in a country if all electricity is produced from renewable sources and some of the over-generated renewable electricity is exported to a neighbouring country.
Biomass and wastes, as defined by Eurostat, cover organic, non-fossil material of biological origin, which may be used for heat production or electricity generation. They comprise wood and wood waste, biogas, municipal solid waste (MSW) and biofuels. MSW comprises biodegradable and non-biodegradable wastes produced by different sectors. Non-biodegradable municipal and solid wastes are not considered to be renewable, but current data availability does not allow the non-biodegradable content of wastes to be identified separately, except for industry.
The electricity produced as a result from hydropower storage systems is not classified as a renewable source of energy in terms of electricity production, but is part of the gross electricity consumption in a country.
The share of renewable electricity could increase even if the actual electricity produced from renewable sources falls. Similarly, the share could fall despite an increase in electricity generation from renewable sources. Therefore, from an environmental point of view, attaining the 2010 target for the share of renewable electricity does not necessarily imply that carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation will fall.
Electricity consumption within the national territory includes imports of electricity from neighbouring countries. It also excludes the electricity produced nationally but exported abroad. In some countries the contribution of electricity trade to total electricity consumption and the changes observed from year to year need to be looked at carefully when analysing trends in renewable electricity. Impacts on the (national) environment are also affected since emissions are accounted where the electricity is produced whereas consumption is accounted where the electricity is consumed.
Data sets uncertainty
Data gaps for breakdown of large hydropower. No projection or historic data for Croatia, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
Data have traditionally been compiled by Eurostat through the annual Joint Questionnaires, shared by Eurostat and the International Energy Agency, following a well established and harmonised methodology. Methodological information on the annual Joint Questionnaires and data compilation can be found on Eurostat's website in the section on metadata on energy statistics: http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_SDDS/EN/nrg_quant_sm1.htm
Short term work
Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.
Long term work
Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.
Responsibility and ownership
EEA Contact InfoMihai Florin Tomescu
Frequency of updates
Typology: Performance indicator (Type B - Does it matter?)
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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