Renewable primary energy consumption
The share of renewable energy sources in total energy consumption increased slowly in the EU-25 between 1990 and 2004 from 4.4% in 1990 to 6.3 % in 2004. Significant further growth will be needed to meet the indicative target of a 12 % share by 2010. All renewable sources increased in 2004. In relative terms, the strongest increased came from wind and solar energy. In absolute terms, 60% of the increase was accounted for by biomass, and about 39% split equally between hydropower and wind energy. Solar energy continues to increase very rapidly but still accounts for less than 1% of total renewable energy.
How fast is the share of renewable energy in total gross energy inland consumption is increasing in Europe?
Contribution of renewable energy sources to total energy consumption in the EU-25, 1990-2004
European Environment Agency and Eurostat
The contribution of renewable energy sources to total energy consumption increased in the EU-25 from 4.4 % in 1990 to 6.3 % in 2004, up by 0.3 percentage points from the share in 2003. This is still substantially short of the indicative target set in the White Paper on renewable energy (COM(97) 599 final) to derive 12 % of total energy consumption in the EU from renewable sources by 2010. More recently, the European Commission launched a comprehensive 'energy package' (10/01/2007), which calls for a share of renewable energy in total energy consumption of 20% by 2020 http://europa.eu/press_room/presspacks/energy/index_en.htm The European Council of 8-9 March 2007 endorsed a binding target of 20% of renewable energy in total energy consumption by 2020 for the EU http://europa.eu/european_council/conclusions/index_en.htm
Biomass and waste is the largest renewable energy source (2/3 of the total) and was responsible for the majority of the absolute growth in renewables during the period 1990-2004, with an increase of 70 % in the EU-25. Biomass and waste can be used to produce electricity and heat and biofuels for transport. It is also seen as one of the main areas for future growth in renewable energy. However, increased use must be balanced against potentially increased environmental pressures on biodiversity, soil and water resources. Latvia, Finland, and Sweden have particularly high shares of biomass and waste in total energy consumption.
Consumption of hydropower grew by 11.8 % over the period 1990-2004, to reach 24 % of total renewable energy consumption and 1.5 % of total energy consumption in the EU-25 in 2004. The contribution of hydropower to gross inland energy consumption is again increasing after a decrease in 2002 and 2003, which was due largely to a decrease in absolute production as a result of low rainfall in these years. Energy consumption from hydropower is not, however, expected to increase significantly due to environmental concerns and a lack of suitable sites, particularly within the EU-15. For example, the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) places a greater emphasis on the protection of the environment, and due to the obligation to prevent any further deterioration it is likely that the construction of new hydro-power plants will become more difficult.
Between 1990 and 2004, wind energy in the EU-25 grew by a factor of 75; and increasing by 32% between 2003 and 2004. This was largely due to strong growth in Germany, Spain and Denmark, which was encouraged by direct price support policies (i.e. feed-in tariffs) for the development of wind power. Wind power is a fast-growing energy source worldwide, and this trend is expected to be reflected throughout the EU-25, as technological development both on- and offshore, combined with national renewable energy promotion policies lead to the introduction of wind power in all Member States. At present however, output still accounts for a small (around 0.3 %) proportion of total energy consumption and 5 % of renewable energy consumption.
The growth of EU-25 geothermal heat and electricity was 68 % over the period 1990-2004. The use of geothermal schemes depends on the quality (temperature and density) of the heat available. Relatively low quality heat is used as an input to district heating schemes and some industrial processes, and higher quality heat can be used to produce steam for electricity production in turbines. Geothermal energy contributed only 5 % to total renewable energy consumption (and 0.3 % of total energy consumption) in the EU-25 in 2004, with Italy accounting for around 90 % of this. There is still significant potential to exploit geothermal heat, particularly in the form of heat pump technology (IEA, 2004).
Between 1990 and 2004 in the EU-25, solar energy grew by around a factor of five. Solar thermal energy developments in Austria, Germany and Greece benefited greatly from proactive government policy coupled with subsidy schemes and communication strategies that emphasised the benefits of solar thermal. In 2006, Spain passed a law making solar panels compulsory in new and renovated buildings. In most Member States solar energy comes from solar thermal energy, rather than electricity generated using photovoltaic (PV) cells. At present use of PV cells is limited due to relatively high production and installation costs, but represent a medium- to long-term opportunity as costs are beginning to fall (JRC, 2004). The proportion of solar energy in total renewable energy amounted to 0.7 % (only 0.04 % of total energy consumption) in 2004.
Despite growing subsidies and programmes, and support for renewables in individual Member States, the observed growth rates in renewable energy consumption are not sufficient if the indicative target of a 12 % share in 2010 is to be met. The European Council of 8-9 March 2007 agreed on a binding target of 20% of renewable energy in total energy consumption by 2020 for the EU.
Indicator specification and metadata
The share of renewable energy consumption is the ratio between gross inland energy consumption from renewable sources (TOE) and total gross inland energy consumption (TOE) calculated for a calendar year, expressed as a percentage. Both renewable energy and total energy consumption are measured in thousand tonnes of oil equivalent (ktoe).
Renewable energy sources are defined as renewable non-fossil sources: wind, solar, geothermal, wave, tidal, hydropower, biomass, landfill gas, sewage treatment plant gas and biogases.
Projections are for 2020-2030 from the POLES (IPTS) Baseline and GHG Reduction Scenario (Mitigation), from PRIMES 2009 Baseline and Reference scenarios and from the WEO 2009 (IEA) Reference and 450 Scenario
Both, renewable energy and total primary energy consumption are measured in thousand tonnes of oil equivalent (ktoe). Therefore, the amount of renewable energy is measured in absolute value, but will be presented in the form of a 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 as renewable electricity is generally considered to have lower life-cycle environmental impact per unit of electricity produced than fossil-fuelled power plants. 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. 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 exploitation 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.
For the EU-15, the share of renewables in total gross inland energy consumption accounted for 9%, in 2009, falling substantially short of the indicative target set in the White Paper on renewable energy (COM(97) 599 final) of 12 % by 2010 (see Figures 1,2,3).
Council adopted on 6 April 2009 the climate-energy legislative package containing measures to fight climate change and promote renewable energy. This package is designed to achieve the EU's overall environmental target of a 20 % reduction in greenhouse gases and a 20 % share of renewable energy in the EU's total energy consumption by 2020.The climate action and renewable energy (CARE) package includes the following main policy documents:
- 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
- Directive 2009/28/ EC of the European parliament and of the Council on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources
- 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
Directive on GHG emissions of fuels and biofuels; COM(2007) 18 final/2. Sets targets for the GHG emissions from different fuel types (e.g. by improving refinery technologies) and allows the blending of up to 10 % of biofuels into diesel and petrol.
Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-plan); COM(2007) 723. Focuses on increasing the competitiveness of new renewable energy technologies. It aims at identifying technologies that require better coordination of Member State policies or the development of public-private partnerships with the industry.
White Paper: Energy for the future - renewable sources of energy; COM(97) 599 final. Sets a target for the EU-15 countries for a share of 12 % RE in GEIC.
Directive on Waste; Directive 2006/12/EC. it requires all EU Member States to take the necessary measures to ensure that waste is treated and disposed of correctly, sets targets for re-use and recycling, and requires Member States to draw up binding national programmes for waste prevention.
The European Commission published a White Paper in 1997 (COM(97) 599 final) setting out a Community strategy for achieving a 12% share of renewables in total gross inland energy consumption (GIEC) in the EU-15 by 2010. The decision was motivated by concerns about security of supply and environmental protection. The contribution of renewable energy sources to GEIC in EU-15 was 8.6 % in 2008, falling significantly short of the 12% indicative target (see Figure 4 and Table 1).
The 12% target was adopted in a 2001 directive on the promotion of electricity from renewable energy sources, which also included a 22.1% target for electricity for the EU-15. As can be seen in Figure 4 already five countries reached their target (Sweden, Austria, Finland, Portugal and Denmark). The other ten are still significantly below the target, especially the UK, Luxembourg, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Greece.
In January 2007, the Commission published a Renewable Energy Roadmap outlining a long-term strategy. It called for a mandatory target of a 20% share of renewable energies in the EU's energy mix by 2020. The target was endorsed by EU leaders in March 2007. To achieve this objective, the EU adopted a new Renewables Directive in April 2009 (2009/28/EC), which set individual targets for each member state.
Related policy documents
Directive on Waste
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 2009/29/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.
COM(97) 599 final. Energy for the future.
Energy for the future: Renewable sources of energy. White Paper for a Community strategy and action plan. COM(97) 599 final.
COM(2007) 18 final
Directive on GHG emissions of fuels and biofuels; COM(2007) 18 final/2
Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-plan); COM(2007) 723
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
Directive 2003/30/EC, use of biofuels and renewable fuels
Promotion of the use of biofuels and other renewable fuels for transport. Directive 2003/30/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 May 2003 on the promotion of the use of biofuels and other renewable fuels for transport.
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
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.
Water Framework Directive (WFD) 2000/60/EC
Water Framework Directive (WFD) 2000/60/EC: Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy.
Methodology for indicator calculation
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 of data manipulation
Renewable energy consumption is the ratio between the gross inland energy consumption from renewable sources and the total gross inland energy consumption calculated for a calendar year.
The coding (used in the Eurostat New Cronos database) and specific components of the indicator are:
- Numerator: solar energy 5530 gross inland energy consumption 100900 + biomass and waste 5540 gross inland consumption 100900 + geothermal energy 5550 energy inland consumption 100900 + hydropower 5510 gross inland energy consumption 100900 + wind energy 5520 gross inland energy consumption 100900.
- Denominator: (total) gross energy inland consumption 100900
Average annual rate of growth calculated using: [(last year/base year) ^ (1/number of years) –1]*100
Solar-thermal: 100900 Gross inland energy consumption (5530 solar energy) – 100100 Primary production (5534 Photovoltaic power)
Report ‘Energy balances Non-OECD countries’ and ‘Energy balances OECD countries’, table ‘Energy balances (ktoe)’, products ‘Hydro’, ‘Geothermal’, ‘Solar/Wind/Other’, ‘Combustible renewables and waste’ and ‘Total’, flow ‘Total Primary Energy Supply’.
POLES IPTS 2009: Gross inland energy consumption Other (EJ)/Gross inland consumption Total (EJ)
WEO 2009: Primary energy demand Biomass and waste (Mtoe)/Total primary energy demand (Mtoe)
- Primary energy demand Hydro (Mtoe)/Total primary energy demand (Mtoe)
- Primary energy demand Other renewables (Mtoe)/Total primary energy demand (Mtoe)
PRIMES 2009: Primary energy demand Biomass and waste (Mtoe)/Total primary energy demand (Mtoe)
- Primary energy demand Hydro (Mtoe)/Total primary energy demand (Mtoe)
- Primary energy demand Wind (Mtoe)/Total primary energy demand (Mtoe)
- Primary energy demand Other renewables [solar & others, geothermal ] (Mtoe)/Total primary energy demand (Mtoe)
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 and Switzerland. No energy data available for Iceland in 2007-2009 (Iceland do not appear in the graphs or tables).
Data for World, United States, China, India, Russia, the Middle East and Africa
1990-2009, projections 2020-2030
- Eurostat (historic data), http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/
- Renewable energy consumption is one of the European Environment Agency’s core-set indicators. More information can be found at http://themes.eea.eu.int/IMS/CSI.
- IEA Data Services, http://data.iea.org/IEASTORE/DEFAULT.ASP
Methodology for gap filling
No gap filling necessary.
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 indicator measures the relative consumption of energy from renewable sources in total energy consumption for a particular country. The share of renewable energy could increase even if the actual energy consumption from renewable sources falls. Similarly, the share could fall despite an increase in energy consumption from renewable sources. CO2 emissions depend not on the share of renewables but on the total amount of energy consumed from fossil sources. Therefore, from an environmental point of view, attaining the 2010 target for the share of renewable energy does not necessarily imply that CO2 emissions from energy consumption will fall.
Data sets uncertainty
Data have been traditionally 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 in Eurostat's web page for metadata on energy statistics. http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_SDDS/EN/nrg_quant_sm1.htm See also information related to the Energy Statistics Regulation http://www.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/file.jsp?id=5431232
Energy statistics (Eurostat)
provided by Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat)
Total primary energy supply by product: (IEA)
provided by International Energy Agency (IEA)
Energy (Primary topic)
Typology: Performance indicator (Type B - Does it matter?)
- CSI 030
- ENER 029
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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