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18th Aug 2019

Renewables roll-out needs faster pace to reach EU goal

  • Solar panels in the Netherlands. Despite an increase in the share of renewable energy, there is still some way to go to reach 2020 EU targets (Photo: PressReleaseFinder)

The European Union needs to increase the pace of rolling out renewable energy if it wants to achieve its 2020 target, new figures released on Tuesday (12 February) indicated.

The Eurostat figures showed that in 2017, 17.5 percent of the EU's energy consumption came from renewable sources, like wind, solar, hydro, or biomass.

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The goal for 2020 is 20 percent.

The renewable share was 17 percent in 2016, 16.7 percent in 2015, and 16.2 percent in 2014. At that pace, the EU will only reach 19 percent by the 2020 deadline.

Nevertheless, EU commissioner for climate action Miguel Arias Canete said on Tuesday, announcing the figures, that the EU was "on track to meet 2020 renewable energy target".

According to Eurostat, the share for renewables increased in 2017 in 19 of the 28 EU member states.

Each EU state has also agreed to an individual 2020 renewables goal, which Eurostat said were already reached in 2017 by Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Romania, and Sweden.

But the two largest EU states, France and Germany, still have quite some way to go.

Germany had 15.5 percent renewable energy in 2017, and needs to be at 18 percent in 2020.

France's share in 2017 was 16.3 percent, with a 23 percent target for 2020. That gap is almost as big as the share of renewables that France has actually added since 2004.

The Netherlands was furthest away from its individual target, with 6.6 percent renewable energy in 2017, while having to reach 14 percent next year.

Ireland was at 10.7 percent, with a 16 percent goal.

Brexit bonus

The United Kingdom was placed fourth-worst at reaching the 2020 target, after the Netherlands, France, and Ireland.

It had a renewable energy share of 10.2 percent in 2017, up from 9.2 percent the year before. Its 2020 goal is 15 percent.

However, the UK is planning to leave the EU in less than seven weeks. That means that the EU directive which contains the climate targets for 2020 will also cease to apply.

Considering that the UK is the third-largest energy consumer in the EU, its departure may actually be good news for the overall target - at least statistically.

With UK energy consumption not counted after Brexit, it could be easier for the remaining 27 member states to at least reach their common goal of 20 percent renewable energy.

Of course, such an administrative sleight-of-hand would not help reach the actual goal, which is to contribute to a reduction of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

Nordic success

Since 2004, the renewables share has gone up from 8.5 to 17.5 percent.

Sweden is the EU country with the highest share of renewable energy (54.5 percent), followed by Finland (41 percent), and Latvia (39 percent).

It is biomass and hydropower in particular that account for the large share of renewables in those countries.

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