Rising Energy Consumption Behind Slowing EU Progress On Renewables & Energy Efficiency

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This post has been updated to include additional commentary from WindEurope.

Progress across the European Union on the use of renewable energy and improving energy efficiency is slowing, according to new data released last week by the European Environment Agency, due to an increase in energy consumption which is eating away at any gains being made elsewhere.

The European Environment Agency (EEA) published its assessment of the EU’s progress on renewable energy and energy efficiency targets last week, completing the Agency’s 2018 Trends and Projections in Europe: 2018: Tracking progress towards Europe’s climate and energy targets report. According to the most recent update, rising energy consumption across the Union — particularly in the transportation sector — is to blame for a slowdown in the progress being made on increasing the use of renewable energy and improving energy efficiency, serving to put at risk the EU’s ability to achieve its energy and emissions reduction targets.

The EEA’s latest update is based on the most recently-reported and approximated data from European Union Member States on greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy uptake, and energy consumption. And, while the European Union as a whole remains on track to meet its 2020 targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase renewable energy use, recent trends in energy consumption must be reversed to meet its energy consumption 2020 targets.

The most recent data shows that renewable energy accounted for a 17.4% share of gross final energy consumption in 2017, indicating that the EU is on track to meet its target of a renewables share of 20% by 2020. However, the pace of renewable energy development has slowed in recent years and only benefited from a marginal increase in 2017, up only 0.4% from 2016.

“Part of the reason why it is becoming more difficult for EU Member States to stay on track with their national Renewable Energy targets is that the trajectories were intentionally back-loaded,” explained Pierre Tardieu, Chief Policy Officer with WindEurope, the region’s wind energy trade body. “In other words, the renewables deployment curve gets steeper towards the end of the decade. We expect that France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Poland and the UK will be among the countries that struggle to meet their target.

“Rising energy consumption de facto makes the 20% renewables share more difficult to meet,” Tardieu added. “So energy efficiency and renewable energy policies are mutually reinforcing.”

The report also shows that there has been insufficient progress towards the 10% target for renewables in the EU transport sector by 2020.

European energy efficiency has also taken a hit of late, after several years of downward-trending energy consumption that would have ensured the EU could hit its 2020 targets on energy efficiency. However, in 2015, EU energy consumption began to increase, and the EEA’s preliminary 2017 estimates indicate that both primary energy consumption and final energy consumption sit above the indicative trajectory towards 2020.

Overall, according to the EEA’s Trends and Projections report, the EU’s current trends will not be adequate to reach the 2030 targets which will therefore require additional and enhanced efforts over the next decade.

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Joshua S Hill

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