Renewable primary energy consumption (CSI 030/ENER 029) - Assessment published Mar 2007
Energy (Primary topic)
Typology: Performance indicator (Type B - Does it matter?)
- CSI 030
- ENER 029
Key policy question: How fast is the share of renewable energy in total gross energy inland consumption is increasing in Europe?
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.
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.
Energy statistics (Eurostat)
provided by Eurostat - Statistical Office of the European Union (ESTAT)
Total primary energy supply by product: (IEA)
provided by International Energy Agency (IEA)
More information about this indicator
See this indicator specification for more details.
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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