Renewable electricity consumption
The share of renewable energy in EU-27 electricity consumption grew only slightly over the period 1990-2005 to reach 14 %, despite a substantial increase in the total amount of renewable electricity generation (up by 48 % since 1990). Hydro production fell in 2005 as a result of lower rainfall. Production from wind increased by 20 % in the last year (similar to biomass), and that of photovoltaics more than doubled. However, significant further growth in production from renewable energy sources will be needed to meet the EU indicative target of a 21 % share by 2010. Also, additional contributions from renewable electricity can be expected in order to meet the overall renewables target of 20 % agreed by the Council in March 2007.
How fast the share of renewable electricity in total gross electricity consumption is increasing in Europe?
Renewable energy makes an important contribution to meeting electricity consumption, with a share of 14 % in 2005. However, this share has only grown slightly since 1990, where it was about 12 %, despite increasing substantially in absolute terms. Renewable electricity production grew by 48 % over the period 1990 to 2005 - faster than the growth in overall electricity consumption (a 24 % increase over the same period). On average, the share of large hydro in gross electricity consumption has declined since 2001 as a result of lower rainfall. This reduction has been more than offset by the increase in other renewable sources. Very strong growth in electricity production can be observed for wind, photovoltaics and biomass-fired power stations. Hydropower still dominates renewable electricity production in most Member States with approximately a share of 2/3 across the EU-27 in 2005. This compares with just above 17 % coming from biomass and waste, 15 % from wind and the rest from geothermal (1.2 %), and solar (0.3 %).
There are significant differences in the share of renewables between the EU-27 Member States. These reflect differences in the availability of natural resources in each country and the policies chosen to support the development of renewable energy. Amongst the EU-27 in 2005, Austria, Sweden and Latvia had the greatest shares of renewable electricity, including large hydropower, in gross electricity consumption. Denmark shows the largest share of renewable electricity when large hydropower is excluded.
Despite the introduction of policies promoting the development of renewable energy in EU Member States, substantial additional production will be required to meet the EU renewable electricity indicative target of 21 % by 2010 set in Directive 2001/77/EC; particularly given the expected increase in gross electricity consumption over this period. While large hydropower accounts for almost two-thirds of renewable electricity production, it is unlikely to increase substantially in the future due to environmental concerns and a lack of suitable sites, particularly within EU-15. Other renewable energy sources, such as wind, biomass, solar and small-scale hydropower will therefore have to grow substantially if the 2010 target is to be met.
The 2004 communication from the European Commission expects the share of renewable electricity for the EU-15 at between 18 and 19 % in 2010 on the basis of currently implemented policies (EC, 2004), still short of the 21 % indicative target. More recently (10/01/2007) the Commission issued a report on the progress made towards the 2010 renewable electricity target, showing that the overall share of renewable electricity will fall just short of the target, reaching 19 % by 2010.
More recently, the European Council of 8-9 March 2007 endorsed a binding target of a 20 % share of renewable energies in overall EU energy consumption by 2020. Furthermore, in January 2008 the European Commission put forth an integrated proposal for 'climate action', including a proposal for a Directive on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources with country-specific targets by 2020. Therefore, even larger contributions from renewable electricity can be expected in order to meet the overall renewables target. According to the Council, differentiated national overall targets should be derived from the overall renewables target, leaving it to Member States to decide on national targets for each specific sector of renewable energies (electricity, heating and cooling, biofuels).
Indicator specification and metadata
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.
Projections are for 2020-2030 from the POLES (IPTS) Baseline and GHG Reduction Scenario, from the WEO 2009 (IEA) Reference and Alternative Policy Scenario (450) and PRIMES (EC) baseline and reference scenarios.
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 consumption from renewable energy sources provides a broad indication of progress towards reducing the environmental impact of electricity consumption on the environment. Increasing the share of renewables in electricity consumption 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, 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 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).
- The European Strategic Energy Technology Plan; COM(2007) 723
It 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 2009, the share was 19.8 %. If the trend of the last 20 years is pursued, continued, the EU will reach 20% energy generation from renewable sources. Given that the trend in recent years is actually increasing, there is reason to be confident in meeting the 21% objective by 2010. Within the EU-27, only Hungary, Lithuania and Luxembourg have already reached their indicative target and three countries, Bulgaria, Germany and Estonia are very close to reach their objectives (see Figure 2). It follows that at an individual country level, there is still much ground to be made up.
Related policy documents
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
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
REGULATION (EC) No 443/2009 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL 443/2009
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.
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 2007-2008 data for Iceland) - data available at Eurostat-
Data for World, United States, China, India, Africa and the Middle East –IEA /DOE data-
1990-2009, projections 2020-2030
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.
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
Renewable electricity consumption (IEA)
provided by International Energy Agency (IEA)
provided by US Energy Information Administration (EIA)
Energy statistics (Eurostat)
provided by Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat)
Energy (Primary topic)
Typology: Performance indicator (Type B - Does it matter?)
- CSI 031
- ENER 030
Contacts and ownership
EEA Contact InfoMihai Florin Tomescu
EEA Management Plan2010 (note: EEA internal system)
Frequency of updates
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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