The European Union’s use of renewable energy reached 17.5 per cent in 2017, keeping it on track for a target of 20 per cent by 2020, although some member states will fail to meet their individual targets, according to the EU’s statistics body, Eurostat.
Eleven member states have already met their goals and several are working towards the target for 2030 of 32 per cent.
The 32-per-cent target by 2030 means individual member states will not face goals, like next year’s benchmarks. Instead, governments are proposing national strategies in plans submitted for the European Commission to review. Spain and Portugal have both proposed a multi-gigawatt push to boost photovoltaic capacity.
Sweden, Finland and Denmark lead the EU in renewable production, according to the statistical agency. Since 2012, more than half of the total energy consumed in Sweden was renewable, the International Energy Agency reported.
Hydropower provides more than 40 per cent of Swedish electricity output and many Swedes heat their homes with biofuels.
Denmark, which gets 43 per cent of its electricity from wind, began phasing out coal power stations in the late 1970s
Luxembourg and the Netherlands had the lowest proportional consumption of renewables with 6.4 per cent and 6.6 per cent respectively. The Dutch are the furthest from reaching their 2020 targets.
In 2017 France provided 16.3 per cent of energy consumed from renewables, compared to its 23-per-cent target for 2020.
Wood and hydropower are the main sources of French renewable electricity.
France generated more than 70 per cent of its electricity using nuclear power in 2017, although Paris says it will close 14 nuclear reactors by 2035 and shut four remaining coal power stations by 2022, if other sources are available.
Germany’s renewable output reached 15.5 per cent in 2017, with its 2020 target set at 18 per cent.
Heavily polluting coal accounted for 37 per cent of German electricity production and more than 30 per cent of its heating, while wind and solar were the main renewable sources.
A solar future?
Paula Abreu Marques, who leads the commission’s renewable policy office, told the Large Scale Solar Europe summit in late March that legislation adopted under Jean-Claude Juncker’s administration would boost solar power generation.
“After 2020, we believe the situation will move. Solar PV is expected to become a mainstream technology at the centre of our energy transition,” Abreu told the event. “The market will have to double compared to today to achieve 2030’s target, and double again in the years after to reach the 2050 goal.”
Abreu said new legislation and funding mechanisms would create conditions to encourage investment and help bring solar manufacturing back to Europe.
The low-lying Netherlands is particularly vulnerable to climate change. Picture credit: Wikimedia