The EU is edging closer to its 2020 target of 20% of all energy consumption coming from renewables, with the latest data from Eurostat indicating that in 2016 a total of 17% of the bloc’s total energy use was renewable in origin.
The figures indicate that 11 EU member states have already reached their 2020 targets, while a separate report finds that renewables in the bloc are now responsible for more electricity generation than coal.
The 2016 Eurostat figures indicate that renewable energy use has doubled since 2004. The EU has a target of sourcing at least 27% of its final energy use from renewables by 2030, and the European Parliament has recently voted to increase this target to 35% – with further negotiations between the EU’s main institutions set for the first half of this year.
However progress across the EU on renewables is mixed. Sweden leads, with 54% of its 2016 final energy consumption coming from renewable sources. It is followed by Finland (39%), Latvia (37%), Austria (33%) and Denmark (32%). The lowest proportions were registered in Luxembourg (5%), Malta (6%) and the Netherlands (6%).
The total 20% target for 2020 is made up of separate targets for individual member states based on their circumstances, which Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Croatia, Italy, Lithuania, Hungary, Romania, Finland and Sweden have already met. The Netherlands has the longest way to go (8% away from its 2020 objective), followed by France (7%), Ireland and the UK (both at 6%).
Euractiv quoted the Greens MEP Claude Turmes as stating that the 35% target for 2030 was the ‘bare minimum’ for meeting Paris Agreement climate change targets. A separate report focusing on European renewable power generation last year finds that more power was generated in the EU in 2017 from wind, solar and biomass than from coal power plants.
The EU Power Sector Review 2017 report, from Sandbag and Agora Energiewende, finds that European wind, solar and biomass generation increased by 12% in 2017 to reach 679 TWh – 20.9% of electricity generated in the EU and above coal generation (at 20.6%) for the first time.
It also finds that Germany and the UK have contributed most – 56% – of the growth in renewables over the last three years, and that, in terms of technologies, wind power is showing the fastest growth.
Despite this progress the report also finds that emissions in the power sector in 2017 were unchanged from 2016, as low levels of hydro and nuclear generation were offset by fossil fuel generation.
Increased EU energy consumption and higher industrial emissions in 2017 leads the report’s authors to advocate a renewed focus on energy efficiency in Europe.
‘Our study gives a very mixed picture,’ said the report’s lead author, Sandbag’s Dave Jones. ‘EU renewables have been increasingly reliant on the success story of wind in Germany, the UK and Denmark, which has been inspiring. But other countries need to do more. Solar deployment is surprisingly low, and needs to respond to the massive falls in costs. And with electricity consumption rising for the third year, countries need to reassess their efforts on energy efficiency.’