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According to European Environment Agency (EEA) early estimates, 22.5% of energy consumed in the EU in 2022 generated from renewable sources. This slight increase compared to 2021, was largely driven by strong growth in solar power. The share is also amplified by a 2022 reduction in non-renewable energy consumption linked to high energy prices. The share of renewables in Europe is expected to keep growing. However, meeting the new target of 42.5% for 2030 will demand more than doubling the rates of renewables deployment seen over the past decade, and requires a deep transformation of the European energy system.
Growth in the use of renewable energy sources (RES) has diverse benefits for society such as mitigating climate change, reducing the emission of air pollutants and improving energy security. The EU formally adopted an update of the Renewable Energy Directive in October 2023 that, among other measures, increases the binding 2030 target from 32% to 42.5%, with the aim of achieving 45%. Each Member State will contribute to this common target, while no targets were introduced for individual countries.
According to EEA early estimates, at 22.5% in 2022, the share of renewable energy in the EU increased slightly (+0.6%) from 2021. Although this value represents a historical high, the growth rate of renewables has slowed since 2020. In absolute values, renewable consumption grew by a modest 1.4 million tonnes oil equivalent (Mtoe) between 2021 and 2022, mainly driven by a substantial increase in solar power generation (+28%). Non-renewables, on the contrary, saw a significant reduction (-2%) linked to high gas prices and nuclear shutdowns. This in turn increased the relative share of renewables in total energy consumption.
The highest penetration of renewables in 2022 occured in the power sector, with a representation of 40.7% of all electricity generated in the EU. It was followed by the heating and cooling sector with a RES share of 23.2%. The RES share in transport was 8.7%.
Among renewable energy sources, the largest by far is solid biomass, which could have implications in terms of carbon sinks and biodiversity. Solid biomass is widely used in electricity generation, industry and residential heating. Combined, it represented 41% of the total renewable energy supply in Europe in 2021 . It is followed by wind (13%), hydropower (12%), liquid biofuels (8%) and biogas (6%). Heat pumps and solar photovoltaics each represented less than 6% of all renewables. However, they are the fastest growing sources, having increased by more than 13% between 2020 and 2021.
Looking at the longer-term trends, the RES share more than doubled between 2005 and 2022. This was driven by dedicated policies and support schemes, as well as increased economic competitiveness of renewable energy sources. The increase represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.5% over the last decade.
Modelling from the IEA and Ember indicate that reaching the new 42.5% target might be feasible if fast and decisive action is taken to promote renewables and reduce energy consumption. The surprisingly rapid deployment of certain technologies such as solar photovoltaics and heat pumps also provides optimism. However, reaching the target will require a very challenging CAGR of 8.3% on the share until 2030, which is more than double the observed rate over the last 10 years. Considering this, it is unlikely but still uncertain that the EU will meet its target unless a deep transformation of the European energy system takes place within this decade, encompassing all sectors.
Figure 2 shows that Sweden, Latvia, and Finland had the highest RES share among Member States in 2022. All three countries have strong hydropower industries and wide use of solid biofuels. Malta and Belgium reported the lowest penetration of renewables, representing around 13% of their respective total energy consumption.
Over the long term, Sweden, Denmark and Estonia have experienced the highest growth in RES shares, with more than 20 percentage points increase since 2005. Romania and Slovenia, on the contrary, have seen an increase of less than six percentage points between 2005 and 2022.
On a shorter timescale, 21 of the 27 EU Member States saw an increase in their renewable energy shares between 2021 and 2022. Luxembourg and Greece topped the list, having increased their RES share by more than three percentage points in 2022. In contrast, the RES share of Romania decreased by more than one percentage point compared to 2021.
In the European Economic Area, Norway and Iceland both have RES shares above 70%. The two countries generate most of their electricity from hydropower while, in Iceland, geothermal energy provides most of the heating.