Renewable primary energy consumption (CSI 030/ENER 029) - Assessment published Apr 2008
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 primary energy consumption increased slowly in the EU-27 from 4.4 % in 1990 to 6.7 % in 2005. This has helped reducing otherwise higher greenhouse gas emissions. However, rising overall energy consumption in absolute terms has counteracted some of the environmental benefits from the higher use of renewables. The strongest increase came from wind and solar energy. In absolute terms, about 80 % of the increase was accounted for by biomass. Significant growth will be needed to meet the indicative target of a 12 % share of renewable energies in 'primary' energy consumption in the EU by 2010. * The European Council of 8-9 March 2007 endorsed a binding target of a 20 % share of renewable energies in 'final' energy consumption by 2020. The renewables share in final energy consumption was about 8.5 % in 2005. A new indicator on 'renewable final energy consumption' will be developed during 2008 to monitor progress towards this new target.
Contribution of renewable energy sources to primary energy consumption in the EU-27, 1990-2005
European Environment Agency and Eurostat
The contribution of renewable energy sources to primary energy consumption increased in the EU-27 from 4.4 % in 1990 to 6.7 % in 2005, up by 0.3 percentage points from the share in 2004. 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 primary energy consumption in the EU from renewable sources by 2010. More recently, the European Commission launched a comprehensive 'energy package' (10/01/2007). As a result, 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
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 1990-2005, with an increase of about 69 % in the EU-27. Only the biodegradable part of municipal solid waste should be seen as renewable. 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 primary energy consumption.
Consumption of hydropower has increased by about 5 % over the period 1990-2005. However, hydropower production has been falling in the past years as a result of lower rainfall to reach a share of 22 % of renewable energy consumption and of 1.5 % of total primary energy consumption in the EU-27 in 2005. Energy consumption from hydropower is not 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 2005, wind energy in the EU-27 grew by a factor of 90; and only in the last year increased by 20 %. This was largely due to strong growth in Spain and Germany, which together account for more than 2/3 of all the EU's wind production. Wind power is a fast-growing energy source worldwide, and this trend is expected to be reflected throughout the EU-27, 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. In 2005 however, output still accounts for a small (around 0.3 %) proportion of total primary energy consumption and 5 % of renewable energy consumption.
Geothermal power-production increased by 69 % in the EU between 1990 and 2005. 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 4 % to renewable energy consumption (and 0.3 % of primary total energy consumption) in the EU-27 in 2005, 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 2005 in the EU-27, solar energy grew by around a factor of five. In the last year alone, it grew by almost 20 %. 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 renewable energy amounted to 0.7 % (only half a percentage of primary total energy consumption) in 2005.
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.
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)
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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