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
Image copyright: 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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Overview of electricity production and use in Europe In 2016,  low-carbon energy sources (i.e. renewables and nuclear energy) continued to dominate the electricity mix for the second year in a row, together generating more power than fossil fuel sources. Fossil fuels (i.e. coal, natural gas and oil) were responsible for 43 % of all gross electricity generation in 2016, a decrease of 11 percentage points across the EU compared with 2005 (54 %). By way of contrast, the share of electricity generated from renewable sources has grown rapidly since 2005, but the pace of growth has slowed down after 2014. In 2016, renewable electricity reached almost one third (29 %) of all gross electricity generation in the EU. This is twice as much as in 2005. As such, renewable sources generated more electricity in 2016 than nuclear sources or coal and lignite. Nuclear energy sources contributed roughly one quarter (26 %) of all gross electricity generation in 2016. The transition from fossil fuels to renewable fuels, together with improved transformation efficiencies in electricity generation, led to an average annual 2.6 % decrease in CO 2 emissions per kWh between 2005 and 2016. Final electricity consumption (the total consumption of electricity by all end-use sectors plus electricity imports and minus exports) in the EU increased by one percent in 2016 compared with 2015, reaching the same level as in 2005. The sharpest growth was observed in the services sector (1.2 % per year) and the sharpest decline in industry (-1.0 % per year). With regards to the non-EU EEA countries,  between 2005 and 2016, electricity generation increased by an average of 4.9 % per  year in Turkey, 7.1 % per year  in Iceland and 0.7 % per year in Norway.
Share of renewable energy in gross final energy consumption in Europe The share of renewable energy in gross final energy use in the EU has almost doubled since 2005. It reached 17.0 % in 2016 and is expected to have reached 17.4 % in 2017, according to the early estimates from the European Environment Agency (EEA) . These levels are higher than those from the indicative EU trajectory for these years set by the Renewable Energy Directive .  The increase in the share of renewable energy sources in final energy consumption has slowed down in recent years. An increasing energy consumption and lack of progress in the transport sector imperil the achievement of both 2020 targets on renewable energy and energy efficiency at EU level. In 2017, according to the EEA's early estimates:  progress towards national targets deteriorated across the EU, with 20 Member States (all but Cyprus, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia and the United Kingdom) meeting or exceeding their indicative targets set under the Renewable Energy Directive, compared with 25 Member States on target in 2016. In addition, only 16 Member States (all except Belgium, Cyprus, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain) reached or exceeded the trajectories set in their own National Renewable Energy Action Plans, compared with 19 in 2016; 11 countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Romania and Sweden) had already managed to achieve their binding renewable energy share targets for 2020, as set under the Renewable Energy Directive; renewable energy accounted for 30.6 % of gross final electricity consumption, 19.3 % of energy consumption for heating and cooling, and 7.2 % of transport fuel consumption in the whole EU.

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