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EU renewable electricity has reduced environmental pressures; targeted actions help further reduce impacts

We need to invest in a green recovery to restart the economy. The European Green Deal puts climate change mitigation at the core of its efforts to recover sustainably from the COVID-19 crisis. Renewable electricity could increase to 70 % of all power generation by 2030 to allow a net 55 % reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by that year and climate neutrality to be reached by 2050. Despite multiple benefits for human health and the environment associated with the reduction in fossil fuel use for energy, increasing renewable power supply is not impact free. Concerns have been raised that renewable electricity could shift environmental burdens in ways that do not always lower overall pressures. This briefing investigates changes in the electricity mix since 2005, and their trade-offs from a life cycle perspective to help policymakers and individuals focus on areas that offer opportunities for improvement.

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Cross-border cooperation on renewable energy

As part of its objective to achieve a climate neutral energy system, the EU has been encouraging regional cooperation on renewable energy. This may take the form of joint renewable energy projects, support schemes or statistical transfers. Despite the clear and abundant benefits of such cooperation, few Member States have embarked on cross-border projects. This briefing analyses the barriers holding countries back and makes recommendations to overcome the challenges, based on the experience of three case studies on cooperation between Denmark and Germany, Norway and Sweden, and Ireland and the United Kingdom.

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Dashboard – Renewable energy in Europe 2020

This viewer outlines progress in the use of renewable energy sources in the EU and at country level, as well as per energy market sector and technology

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Dashboard - Impacts of renewable energy use on decarbonisation and air pollutant emissions

This viewer shows estimates of the impacts of renewable energy consumption since 2005 on the use of fossil fuels and emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and air pollutants.

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Renewable energy in Europe: key for climate objectives, but air pollution needs attention

The European energy system is undergoing rapid changes to set the EU economy on a low-carbon and resource-efficient path. Renewable energy is instrumental to this transformation. EU efforts to double the share of renewable energy in its consumption have paid off, having reduced significantly the amount of fossil fuels used and their associated greenhouse gas emissions. Concerning air pollutant emissions however, the outcomes were not always positive: in countries where biomass burning has increased considerably since 2005, emissions of certain air pollutants have also increased. This briefing presents an estimate of the impact of renewable energy consumption on fossil fuel use, greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and air pollution since 2005.

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