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 10.2% in 2020. This means that, collectively, the EU countries reached the 10% target for the share of energy from renewable sources in the transport sector. Preliminary EEA data indicate that in 2021, the share of energy from renewable sources used for transport in the EU stabilized at around the same level (10.2%). Progress among the EU Member States varies significantly, from 5.6% in Greece to 34% in Sweden.

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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 renewable energy share.

In 2020, 10.2% 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%. This indicates that the 2020 target of 10% was reached at the EU level. Preliminary EEA estimates suggest that this share stayed at the same 10.2% level in 2021. The increase since 2005 was mainly the result of an expansion in the use of biofuels across Europe: between 2011 and 2020, the amount of energy that came from RED-compliant biofuels and was used in transport more than doubled . Meanwhile, the electrification of road and rail transport has played a small role in the progress made so far.

In 2018, the new RED, known as RED II, 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 European Plenary voted in September 2022 to raise the overall renewable energy target to 45% and subsequently to increase the GHG intensity transport target to 16% by using larger shares of advanced biofuels and a more ambitious quota for renewable fuels of non-biological origin. The text is currently subject to upcoming negotiations between the Council and the European Parliament.

The extent of progress varies among Member States. According to data from Eurostat, only 12 EU countries appear to have achieved the 2020 target of 10% (Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Estonia, Hungary, Belgium, Slovenia, Italy, Malta, Austria and Ireland). Preliminary estimates for 2021 show that Italy and Ireland dropped below the 2020 target of 10% in 2021. This is because of growth in the gross final consumption of energy from all fuels in transport as economic activity rebounded after the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile Denmark, Portugal and Spain reached the 10% target in 2021.

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 only constituted just over 3% of total energy used in transport in Norway in 2020.

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