Main statistical findings
The primary production of renewable energy within the EU-28 in 2014 was 196 million tonnes of oil equivalent (toe) — a 25.4 % share of total primary energy production from all sources. The quantity of renewable energy produced within the EU-28 increased overall by 73.1 % between 2004 and 2014, equivalent to an average increase of 5.6 % per year.
Among renewable energies, the most important source in the EU-28 was solid biofuels and renewable waste, accounting for just under two thirds (63.1 %) of primary renewables production in 2014 (see Table 1). Hydropower was the second most important contributor to the renewable energy mix (16.5 % of the total), followed by wind energy (11.1 %). Although their levels of production remained relatively low, there was a particularly rapid expansion in the output of wind and solar energy, the latter accounting for a 6.1 % share of the EU-28’s renewable energy produced in 2014, while geothermal energy accounted for 3.2 % of the total. There are currently very low levels of tide, wave and ocean energy production, with these technologies principally found in France and the United Kingdom.
The largest producer of renewable energy within the EU-28 in 2014 was Germany, with an 18.4 % share of the total; Italy (12.1 %) and France (10.7 %) were the only other EU Member States to record double-digit shares, followed by Spain (9.2 %) and Sweden (8.5 %). There were considerable differences in the renewable energy mix across the Member States, which reflect to a large degree natural endowments and climatic conditions. For example, more than four fifths of the renewable energy produced in Malta (80.3 %) and around two thirds of that produced in Cyprus (66.7 %) was from solar energy. By contrast, close to or more than a third of the renewable energy in the relatively mountainous countries of Sweden, Croatia, Austria and Slovenia was from hydropower. Hydropower also accounted for more than a third of the renewable energy production in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, and Montengro, rising to a share of almost two thirds Albania, while peaking at 90.1 % of the renewables energy total in Norway. More than one fifth (22.1 %) of the renewable energy production in Italy was from geothermal energy sources (where active volcanic processes exist); their share that rose to 78.7 % in Iceland. The share of wind power was particularly high in Ireland (51.8 %) and also accounted for close to or more than one quarter of renewable energy production in Spain, the United Kingdom and Denmark.
The output of renewable energy in Malta grew at an average rate of 41.3 % per year between 2004 and 2014, although the absolute level of output remained by far the lowest in the EU-28. Over this same period, annual increases averaging in excess of 10.0 % were recorded for Belgium (14.2 % per annum), the United Kingdom (12.7 %) and Ireland (11.7 %), while increases below 3.0 % were recorded in France, Romania, Latvia, Denmark, Sweden, Croatia and Finland.
Renewable energy sources accounted for a 12.5 % share of the EU-28’s gross inland energy consumption in 2014 (see Table 2). The importance of renewables in gross inland consumption was relatively high in Portugal (25.0 %), Denmark (26.2 %), Finland (29.4 %) and Austria (30.0 %) and exceeded one third of inland consumption in Sweden (35.8 %) and Latvia (36.2 %), as was the case in Norway (44.8 %) and Iceland (86.3 %).
The EU seeks to have a 20 % share of its gross final energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020; this target is distributed between the EU Member States with national action plans designed to plot a pathway for the development of renewable energies in each of the Member States. Figure 1 shows the latest data available for the share of renewable energies in gross final energy consumption and the targets that have been set for 2020. The share of renewables in gross final energy consumption stood at 16.0 % in the EU-28 in 2014.
Among the EU Member States, the highest share of renewables in gross final energy consumption in 2014 was recorded in Sweden (52.6 %), while Latvia, Finland and Austria each reported that more than 30.0 % of their final energy consumption was derived from renewables. Compared with the most recent data available for 2014, the targets for France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom require each of these Member States to increase their share of renewables in final energy consumption by at least 8.0 percentage points. By contrast, nine of the Member States had already surpassed their targets for 2020; this was particularly true in Croatia, Sweden and Bulgaria.
The latest information available for 2014 (see Figure 2) shows that electricity generated from renewable energy sources contributed more than one quarter (27.5 %) of the EU-28’s gross electricity consumption. In Austria (70.0 %) and Sweden (63.3 %) at least three fifths of all the electricity consumed was generated from renewable energy sources, largely as a result of hydropower and solid biofuels.
The growth in electricity generated from renewable energy sources during the period 2004 to 2014 (see Figure 3) largely reflects an expansion in three renewable energy sources, namely, wind turbines, solar power and solid biofuels. Although hydropower remained the single largest source for renewable electricity generation in the EU-28 in 2014 (43.9 % of the total), the amount of electricity generated in this way in 2014 was relatively similar to that recorded a decade earlier, rising by just 12.1 % overall. By contrast, the quantity of electricity generated from solid biofuels (including renewable waste) and from wind turbines in 2014 was 1.8 times and 3.3 times as high as in 2004. The relative shares of wind turbines and solid biofuels in the total quantity of electricity generated from renewable energy sources rose to 27.4 % and 18.0 % respectively in 2014. The growth in electricity from solar power was even more dramatic, rising from just 0.7 TWh in 2004 to overtake geothermal energy in 2008, reaching a level of 92.3 TWh in 2014. Over this 10-year period, the contribution of solar power to all electricity generated from renewable energy sources rose from 0.1 % to 10.0 %. Tide, wave and ocean power contributed just 0.05 % of the total electricity generated from renewable energy sources in the EU-28 in 2014.
At the end of 2008, the EU agreed to set a target for each Member State, such that renewable energy sources (including liquid biofuels, hydrogen or ‘green’ electricity) should account for at least 10 % of all fuel used within the transport sector by 2020. The average share of renewable energy sources in transport fuel consumption across the EU-28 was 5.9 % in 2014, ranging from highs of 21.6 % in Finland and 19.2 % in Sweden (the only Member States with double-digit shares) to less than 1.0 % in Spain and Estonia (see Figure 4).
Data sources and availability
The statistics presented in this article are calculated on the basis of energy statistics covered by Regulation 1099/2008 on energy statistics, most recently amended in April 2014 by Regulation 431/2014; a consolidated version of the legislation is available.
The share of renewable energy in gross final energy consumption is identified as a key indicator for measuring progress under the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. This indicator may be considered as an estimate for the purpose of monitoring Directive 2009/28/EC on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources — however, the statistical system in some countries for specific renewable energy technologies is not yet fully developed to meet the requirements of this Directive; for example, ambient heat energy for heat pumps is not reported by many countries. Furthermore, for the calculation of the share the Directive requires hydropower and wind energy to be normalised to smooth the effects of variations due to weather; given the 15-year normalisation requirement for hydropower production and the availability of energy statistics (for the EU-28, starting from 1990), long time series for this indicator are not available.
The share of electricity from renewable energy sources is defined as the ratio between electricity produced from renewable energy sources and gross national electricity consumption. Electricity produced from renewable energy sources comprises electricity generation from hydropower plants (excluding pumping), as well as electricity generated from solid biofuels/waste, wind, solar and geothermal installations.
The share of renewable energies in the fuel consumed by the transport sector is calculated on the basis of energy statistics, according to the methodology as described in Directive 2009/28/EC. The contribution of all liquid biofuels is included within the calculation for this indicator until 2010. From 2011, the data for liquid biofuels in transport are restricted only to liquid biofuels compliant with Directive 2009/28/EC (in other words satisfying the sustainability criteria).
The European Commission has set out several energy strategies for a more secure, sustainable and low-carbon economy. Aside from combating climate change through a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the use of renewable energy sources is likely to result in more secure energy supplies, greater diversity in energy supply, less air pollution, as well as the possibility for job creation in environmental and renewable energy sectors.
The 2020 climate and energy package adopted in December 2008 provided a further stimulus for increasing the use of renewable energy sources to 20 % of total energy consumption by 2020, while calling for energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions to both be cut by 20 %. Directive 2009/28/EC of the European Parliament and Council on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources set an overall goal across the EU for a 20 % share of energy consumption to be derived from renewable sources by 2020, while renewables should also account for a 10 % share of the fuel used in the transport sector by the same date. The Directive changes the legal framework for promoting renewable electricity, requires national action plans to show how renewable energies will be developed in each EU Member State, creates cooperation mechanisms, and establishes sustainability criteria for liquid biofuels (following concerns over their potential adverse effects on crop prices, food supply, forest protection, biodiversity, water and soil resources). A report on the sustainability of solid and gaseous biofuels used for electricity, heating and cooling (SWD(2014) 259) was adopted in July 2014.
On 6 June 2012, the European Commission presented a Communication titled, ‘Renewable energy: a major player in the European energy market’ (COM(2012) 271 final), outlining options for a renewable energy policy for the period beyond 2020. The Communication also called for a more coordinated European approach in the establishment and reform of support schemes and an increased use of renewable energy trading among EU Member States. In January 2014, the European Commission put forward a set of energy and climate goals for 2030 with the aim of encouraging private investment in infrastructure and low-carbon technologies. One of the key targets proposed is for the share of renewable energy to reach at least 27 % by 2030. These objectives are seen as a step towards meeting the greenhouse gas emissions targets for 2050 put forward in the Roadmap for moving to a competitive low-carbon economy in 2050 (COM (2011) 112 final).
One of the 10 priorities of the European Commission put forward in 2014 is an energy union. It is intended that a European energy union will ensure secure, sustainable, competitive and affordable energy. In February 2015, the European Commission set out its plans for a framework strategy for a resilient energy union with a forward-looking climate change policy in a Communication (COM(2015) 80 final). The Communication proposes five dimensions for the strategy, one of which is decarbonising the economy.