Renewable energy in Europe 2018 - Recent growth and knock-on effects

The European Environment Agency (EEA) report Renewable energy in Europe 2018 - Recent growth and knock-on effects measures the progress made in the deployment of renewable energy sources within the member states and in the EU as a whole.

Europe accounted for the highest share of new global investments in renewable energy sources during the period 2005-2012. In 2014, the EU had the largest installed and available capacity of solar energy in the world, as well as the largest wind power capacity worldwide.

Renewable energy play an important role in the EU´s energy mix

The share of renewable energy sources has doubled since 2005, and accounted for 17 % of total energy consumption in 2017.

The report also shows that the increased consumption of renewable energy has reduced the use of fossil fuels in Europe by 1/10 since 2005. In 2017, 85 % of all newly installed power came from renewable sources, of which most came from wind and solar power. Tidalwave and ocean energy currently makes up less than 1 % of the total electricity generated from renewable sources. One third of the total electricity consumption in the EU came from renewable sources in 2017.

Renewable energy sources are mostly used for heating and cooling

In absolute terms, renewable energy for heating and cooling remains the dominant renewable energy market sector in Europe, making up one fifth of all final energy consumed for heating and cooling. The transport sector is lagging behind, with only 7 % of all energy use coming from renewables (mostly biofuels). A higher share of renewable electricity use in the transport sector would reduce the pressure on transport biofuels to reach the EU's target of a 10 % renewable share in transport by 2020.

The pace of growth in renewables is slowing down

The growth of renewable energy sources in Europe has started to slow down as a result of greater energy consumption and an increase in fossil energy sources in several member states. At the same time, the share of renewables is increasing in other parts of the world, especially in China and Brazil. The EEA therefore emphasizes that greater efforts are needed from the member states if 20 % of  total energy consumption is to come from renewable energy sources by 2020.

Large differences among the member states

The results in the report also show that there are major differences between the member states. In Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Austria and Latvia, more than 30 % of total energy consumption comes from renewable sources. In Belgium, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands however, the share is below 9 %. This is due to different access to natural resources and large economic differences, and as result the member states are given individual targets for 2020.

To reach the EU renewable energy targets for 2030 and to become a sustainable, low-carbon economy by 2050,  the member states need adequate decarbonization targets and policy responses. They also need to improve their national innovation and production capabilities. But despite the challenges, the EU is on track to reach the renewable targets for 2020. In fact, eleven member states have already achieved their goals.

By Martine Farstad