Europe’s renewable electricity generation nearly hits 20%

Credit: EWEA

Last year, just shy of 20% of Europe’s total electricity consumption came from renewable sources, according to the latest figures from the European Commission.

The EC’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) has produced annual Renewable Energy Snapshots since 2007 to track the region’s progress towards the target of 20% renewable energy generation by 2020.

Data is coalesced from official figures from EU countries or EUROSTAT and ‘grey’ data from industry associations, research projects and the like.

The findings, which indicate that renewables accounted for 62% of newly installed generation capacity in 2009, give grounds for “cautious optimism” says the JRC.

Overall, hydropower still makes up the single largest share at 11.6% of Europe’s total electricity consumption, followed by wind (4.2%), biomass (3.5%) and solar (0.4%).

But in newly installed capacity, wind (37.1%) and solar photovoltaics (21%) clearly lead the way, with biomass (2.1%), hydro (1.4%) and concentrated solar power (0.4%) trailing behind.

Wind energy reached an installed capacity of more than 74 GW in 2009, exceeding the European Wind Energy Association’s target of 40 GW by 2010 by over 80%. The Association now wants to aim for 230 GW by 2020, including 40 GW of offshore wind, which would meet 20% of the region’s electricity demand.

If current growth rates continue, all renewables could meet up to 35-40% of total consumption in Europe by 2020, generating around 1400 TWh.

Continued growth of the renewables sector will require some issues – including access to the grid and public subsidies – to be resolved across the region.

With that in mind, European member states were required to submit National Renewable Energy Plans last week, which are supposed to set out how a country expects to reach its legally binding 2020 renewables target, the technology mix it expects to use and the measures and reforms it will undertake to overcome development and deployment barriers.

According to the EC, only plans from Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK have been received to date.

The UK plan highlights offshore wind and marine energy as key areas of development, along with support measures such as feed-in tariffs, renewable heat incentives and the Green Investment Bank to ensure the country meets its target of 15% renewables by 2020.

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Related stories:
UK Government announces £10 million for offshore wind (5-Jul)
Europe predicts strong year ahead for wind market (15-Jun)
UK Crown Estate gives go ahead for extra 2 GW of offshore wind capacity (12-May)
UK offshore wind capacity reaches 1 GW (26-Apr)
EU expects to meet 20% renewables target by 2020 (22-Feb)
UK Government confirms extra 25 GW of offshore wind energy (25-Jun 2009)

06 July 2010