Renewable energy sources have continued their rapid rise in the share of European Union energy consumption according to new figures published this week, and is edging closer to its 20% by 2020 target.
According to new figures published by the European Environment Agency (EEA) this week, the share of renewables in the energy mix has increased from 15% in 2013 to 16% in 2014, and up to 16.7% in 2015. Additionally, renewable energy accounted for 77% of all new electricity-generating capacity added in 2015, the eighth year in a row it has accounted for the majority of new additions.
However, there is very little consistency in terms of Member State renewable energy shares — ranging from more than 30% in Finland, Latvia, and Sweden, all the way down to 5% or less for Luxembourg and Malta.
The new report, Renewable energy in Europe 2017: recent growth and knock-on effects, found that there is a need to speed up the decommissioning of fossil fuel capacity to ensure that the European Union avoids stranded assets and lock-in of carbon-intensive power plants. However, the report also found that the rate of replacement of carbon-intensive energy sources by renewable energy sources has resulted in significant greenhouse gas emission reductions in the European Union electricity sector, in the consumption of energy for heating and cooling, and in the transport sector.
Renewable energy heating and cooling remains the dominant renewable energy market sector in Europe, with renewable energy sources accounting for about 18% of all final energy consumed for heating and cooling in 2014. Further, in 17 Member States, renewable heating and cooling represented more than half of the national gross final consumption of renewables in 2014.
The report also concluded that, in absolute terms, renewable electricity is the second largest renewable energy sources market sector in Europe, with approximately 28% of all electricity consumed in the EU in 2014 stemming from renewable energy sources. However, only four countries — Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and the UK — saw the share of renewable electricity represent over half of all gross final consumption of renewables in 2014.
“As the EU strives to become a sustainable, lowcarbon economy by 2050, developing a competitive edge in renewables is essential,” the authors of the report concluded, noting that Member States have a series of hurdles to overcome if they are to meet their 2030 objectives and intensify their climate and energy efforts. These hurdles, in the short term, include formulating adequate policy responses that deliver climate and energy targets nationally, as well as agreeing on a functional system to monitor European Union cooperation and adjustment efforts. The EU Member States also need to improve their innovation capabilities in an effort to increase the benefits from the necessary energy transition.
“Given the situation where more than 150 non-EU countries have set national RES targets intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and where most of these countries have also adopted policies to catalyse national RES investments (IRENA, 2017), the EU and its Member States must find solutions to focus and coordinate their efforts and to learn from each other, in order to remain leaders in low-carbon energy transitions.”
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