Use of renewable energy for transport in Europe

The share of energy from renewable sources used for transport in the EU increased from under 2% in 2005 to almost 9% in 2019. Preliminary EEA data indicate that in 2020, this increased further to 10.1%. This suggests that collectively the EU countries reached the 10% target for share of energy from renewable sources in all forms of transport. However, EEA preliminary estimates show that this target was actually achieved by less than half of EU Member States.

Published: ‒ 25min read

In 2009, the Renewable Energy Directive (RED; 2009/28/EC) set the target for each Member State, whereby 10% of all energy used in transport should be from renewable sources by 2020. The RED also introduced sustainability criteria and, since 2011, only biofuels that comply with these criteria count towards the share.

In 2019, 8.9% of the total energy used in transport in the EU was from renewable sources, following a steady increase in this share since 2005, when it was just under 2%. Preliminary EEA estimates suggest that this share further increased to 10.1% in 2020. This indicates that the 2020 target of 10% was reached at the EU level, although the uncertainty of preliminary estimates means that final statistics may reveal the target was narrowly missed or achieved by a higher margin. The increase was mainly the result of an expansion in the use of biofuels across Europe: between 2011 and 2019, energy used in transport that came from RED-compliant biofuels doubled. Meanwhile, the electrification of road and rail transport has played a small role in the progress made so far.

In 2018, the RED recast strengthened the sustainability criteria for bioenergy and set a new goal for 2030, increasing the target for the share of renewable energy used in transport to 14% by 2030.

The extent of progress varies among Member States. According to EEA preliminary estimates, only 12 EU countries appear to have achieved the 2020 target of 10% (Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, Austria, Luxembourg, Belgium, Hungary, Portugal, Italy, Malta, Slovenia, and Ireland). Another two were very close (Germany and France). The uncertainty of the preliminary estimates means that the final statistics may reveal a different result in some countries.

Sweden, which has the highest share of energy from renewable sources in transport, has ambitious targets for the transport sector and uses energy and carbon taxes to achieve these targets: a carbon tax on fuels has been in place since 1991 and exemptions and reductions apply for sustainable biofuels.

In Norway, the use of renewable electricity in road transport has increased substantially as a result of policies that encourage electric mobility combined with the country’s essentially renewable electricity supply. However, renewable electricity constituted only around 3% of total energy used in transport in Norway in 2019.

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