Published on March 13th, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan


3 EU Countries Have Already Hit Their 2020 Renewable Energy Goals — You’ll Never Guess Them

March 13th, 2014 by  

You might get one or two, but unless you’ve already read this story elsewhere, I’d bet plenty of cash that you can’t guess all three EU countries that have already hit their 2020 renewable energy targets. Countries that have yet to hit their targets include Germany, the UK (it’s far off), Spain, Portugal, and Denmark — countries that we write about a lot here on CleanTechnica for their clean energy progress. Check out the article below from Climate Central to find out who’s way ahead of schedule. And note that cheap wind power has been a key reason why they developed so much renewable energy so fast.

Three EU Countries Hit 2020 Renewable Benchmarks Early

By Brian Kahn

Newly released data shows that three European Union member countries have already met their renewable energy goals for 2020. A number of other members are also well on their way to meeting their benchmarks, though some countries, most notably the U.K., are a long ways away.

Eurostat, the main entity that keeps data on the EU, released renewable energy data for 2012 on Tuesday. Sweden leads the way for all EU members with 51 percent of its energy coming from renewables. It trails only Norway, which is not an EU member, in renewable production in Europe.

Sweden is also one of the first three EU countries to surpass its renewable energy goals for 2020. Bulgaria, and Estonia also met their renewable energy goals 8 years ahead of schedule, fueled by substantial growth in wind power. Biofuels also chipped in a fairly large assist for Estonia.


A graph showing percentage of EU members’ 2012 share of energy generated by renewables versus 2020 renewable energy commitments.  Data credit: Eurostat

Twenty of the EU’s 28 members states are also more than halfway to meeting their 2020 goals. However, not all countries are ahead of the curve.

Malta and Luxembourg are bringing up the rear. But the U.K. is a more notable laggard, generating only 4.2 percent of its energy from renewables in 2012. There are signs that the U.K. may be looking more to nuclear power instead of renewables to help reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Forbes reports that the U.K. has approved two nuclear reactors that would provide 7 percent of the nation’s electricity.

Overall, the EU received 14.1 percent of its energy from renewable sources in 2012, a roughly 6 percent increase since 2004. If that rate continues, the EU should be on track to meet its goal of using 20 percent renewable energy by 2020.

The renewable energy goals are part of a larger the EU’s “20-20-20” strategy, a three-pronged approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. In addition to a 20 percent increase in renewables, members states have also committed to helping the EU reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels and improve energy efficiency by 20 percent.

Though 2020 is still 6 years away, the EU is already looking beyond it. Recent EU negotiations have set a goal for renewables to provide 27 percent of all EU energy while reducing emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • Vm

    #1 is sweden. Sweden’s electricity grid has been like 40+% hydro and 40+% nuclear and fossil fuel < 10% for many years now

    Is lumping hydro in with solar and wind misleading and dishonest? It should be since it can be used to falsely promote solar and wind when actually hydro was doing all the work

    • Bob_Wallace

      The goal is to quit fossil fuels. Different countries and different grids will use different technologies based on what is most available in that area.

      Hydro is a great partner for wind and solar, in general. It’s a very low carbon fill-in. Great option for a grid that has some hydro but not enough to supply all its needs. Use wind and solar as “hydro stretchers”.

  • JamesWimberley

    A lot of the criticism of the EU Commission’s policy proposals for 2030 was the replacement of a binding EU target for renewables by national targets. But it looks from this table that the national commitments for 2020 are already hugely variable. So much so that the metric of achieving them, and the headline medal table, is pretty uninformative.

    That said, surprises here include the surprisingly good performance of former Eastern Europe, including Poland. Others have noted the miserable failure of the UK and The Netherlands towards meeting comparatively undemanding targets.

  • mikgigs

    This is not true about Bulgaria. As a bulgarian citizen I know that green energy in Bulgaria is a big fraud and nothing to do with data.

  • jimbo

    Terrible looking progress for the UK. I hope we don’t get away with missing our target by pulling out of the EU! On a bright note, I did see a large farm sized solar array being built today as I drove down the M4. It must have been a few MW. There were actually workers putting the panels onto the frames, so in a few weeks it should be up and running. If we had a government that was genuinely interested in renewable energy, I think we could far surpass our targets.

  • wattleberry

    So far, so depressingly predictable in the UK. It seems that the English-speaking world is not noted for being particularly quick off the mark, beset as it is by challenges and obstacles which seem to be an inevitable, if at times infuriatingly irritating, consequence of our hard-won democratic rights.
    Nonetheless, as the NPD Solarbuzz article, by coincidence also out today, well describes, when allowed to have their heads without undue official interference, they can still show an exhilarating ability to romp along at an amazing pace.

  • Ross

    A number of those countries could be accused of resting on their laurels. Already close to the 2020 target but with slow progress towards it: Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Finland and last but not least Norway.

  • Yay! My country is 3rd.

    From the bottom.

    • andereandre

      I am as ashamed as you are.

    • haha, i read your first line and thought, “what? NL was doing horrible.”

      such a shame. such a leader in other ways.

      • andereandre

        We still seem to have that reputation, but it is a long time ago that we even remotely deserved it (or do you mean our leadership as the tax evasion and money laundering hub of the world?).

      • Hans

        The Dutch renewable energy politics has never properly been thought through, every new government introduced a new ad-hoc support mechanism and new rules. Not really the basis for a flourishing industry. The idea that a consistent support could spur technology development and drive down prices never entered the mind of the designers of these flawed regulations. The only good news is/was the silent PV revolution that is taking place due to net-metering and the current low prices for PV systems. However, this will be killed in 2017 too. It is unclear what will happen after 2017.

        It is such a shame that a country that will be hit hard by climate change (about a third of the area is below sealevel) is doing so little to fight it. Typical Dutch short sighted cheapness.

        (By the way it is also typically Dutch to complain about the Netherlands)

        • Eric Cuijpers

          As long as NL sits on its gasbubble we will remain in the lowest league

  • No way

    My guess was Sweden, Estonia and Romania. So not far from it. But it would have been even more interesting if a third bar was added showing the % of fossil fuel free energy.
    That would really show the environmentally unfriendly and big polluters.

    • Estonia was not on the map for me. Big surprise.

      • No way

        It’s not only a beautiful country to visit but the progress during the last 10 years has been amazing to follow. It’s becoming a mini-Nordic country and has really taken advantage of strong bonds to its nordic neighbours.
        And it’s not only catching up but has also shamed it’s neighbours by building the worlds first nationwide fast charging network (less than 50 km to a fast charger from any point in the country).

  • StefanoR99

    How do the EU member states (countries) compare to the states in the US?

    • you mean in % from renewables?

      • StefanoR99

        Yes, would love to know how the US is doing in comparison to Europe. I’m living in California right now, after emigrating from the UK…

        • Bob_Wallace

          I’m assuming hydro is included in those numbers.

          If so, the US is producing about 13% from all renewables. That puts it in about the middle of the EU countries.

          • No way

            It would put the US in spot number 18, in the lower middle.

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