EU Member States need more ambition to reach joint target on renewable energy

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News Published 18 Dec 2018 Last modified 08 Mar 2019
2 min read
Photo: © Tim Laws, WaterPIX /EEA
The share of renewable energy sources in the European Union’s (EU) energy use has doubled since 2005 but this growth has been slowing down in recent years, especially due to increasing energy consumption and lack of progress in the transport sector. The European Environment Agency’s (EEA) new report shows that EU Member States need to step up their efforts to reach the 2020 target on renewable energy.

The EEA report ‘Renewable energy in Europe — 2018’ outlines the progress in the deployment of renewable energy sources in the EU, based on official data for 2016 and preliminary EEA estimates for 2017.

The report shows that the share of renewable energy in final energy use in the EU increased from 16.7 % in 2015 to 17.0 % in 2016 and to an estimated 17.4 % in 2017. Although the EU remains on track to achieve its 2020 target of 20 % share of renewable energy in gross final energy consumption, recent increases in final energy consumption in some Member States are slowing down the pace of growth in the share of renewable energy across the EU.

To meet the 2030 target, EU Member States must collectively increase the share of renewable energy sources to at least 32 % of gross final energy consumption. Currently, individual Member States’ use of renewable energy varies widely, ranging from over 30 % of gross final energy consumption in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Latvia and Sweden to below 9 % in Belgium, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands, the EEA report shows.

Other key findings

In 2017, 85 % of all newly installed power capacity in the EU was of renewable origin, with wind power and solar photovoltaics accounting for three quarters of the new renewable power capacity. One third of all electricity consumed in the EU in 2016 and in 2017 originated from renewable sources.

Heating and cooling remains the dominant market sector for renewable energy in the EU, with about 19 % share of renewables in 2016 and 2017. The transport sector is lagging far behind with only 7 % share of renewable use in the same years. Most of renewable energy used for transport comes from biofuels. Only biofuels certified to comply with the sustainability criteria under the Renewable Energy Directive can be counted towards these targets.

According to the report, the EU is still the global leader in renewable electricity capacity per capita but China is now investing more in new capacity. The share of jobs related to renewable energy in the labour force is also progressing faster in Brazil and China than in the EU.

The increasing use of renewables has allowed the EU to cut its demand for fossil fuels and their associated greenhouse gas emissions. According to the EEA analysis, the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions would have been about 9 % higher in 2016, and 10 % higher in 2017, if the increasing use of renewables since 2005 had not substituted 11 % of the EU’s gross inland consumption of fossil fuels over this period.

The ‘Renewable energy in Europe’ reports complement the EEA’s annual assessment of progress towards the EU’s climate and energy targets in the publication Trends and projections in Europe 2018.


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