The countries of the European Union are currently the global leaders in the development and application of renewable energy. Promoting the use of renewable energy sources is important both to the reduction of the EU's dependence on foreign energy imports, and in meeting targets to combat global warming. Germany and the United Kingdom are currently the only members of the EU that are on track to achieve the objectives set by the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.
The Maastricht Treaty set an objective of promoting stable growth while protecting the environment. The Amsterdam Treaty added the principle of sustainable development to the objectives of the EU. Since 1997, the EU has been working towards a renewable energy supply equivalent to 12% of the total EU's energy consumption by 2010.
The Johannesburg Summit failed to introduce the radical changes targeted for ten years after the Rio Summit. No specific goals were set for the energy sector, which disappointed many countries. While the EU had proposed an annual increase in the use of renewable energy at a rate of 1.5% worldwide until 2010, Johannesburg's action plan did not recommend such a "substantial" increase, with no concrete goals nor dates being set.
The EU was unwilling to accept this result, and with other nations formed a group of "pioneer countries" that promised to establish ambitious national or even regional goals to achieve global targets. The Johannesburg Renewable Energy Coalition (JREC) has a total of more than 80 member countries; the EU members, Brazil, South Africa and New Zealand amongst them.
In the European Conference for Renewable Energy in Berlin in 2004, the EU defined ambitious goals of its own. The conclusion was that by 2020, the EU would seek to obtain 20% of its total energy consumption requirements with renewable energy sources. Up until that point, the EU had only set targets up to 2010, and this proposal was the first to represent the EU's commitment up to 2020.
In September 2008, leaked documents from the council of the European Union reveals "member states want the aviation sector to be excluded from... the overall target." Luxembourg MEP Claude Turmes criticised the UK's approach:
Britain is leading the attempt to undermine the climate change directive. Gordon Brown promised that the UK would not attempt to cut the EU 20% renewables target... Now UK civil servants from the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform have a different strategy and are pushing for cuts. A government that is supposedly committed to tackle climate change must not try to kill the essence of this directive.
In 2001, the Portuguese government launched a new energy policy instrument – the E4 Programme (Energy Efficiency and Endogenous Energies), consisting of a set of multiple, diversified measures aimed at promoting a consistent, integrated approach to energy supply and demand. By promoting energy efficiency and the use of endogenous (renewable) energy sources, the programme seeks to upgrade the competitiveness of the Portuguese economy and to modernize the country’s social fabric, while simultaneously preserving the environment by reducing gas emissions, especially the CO2 responsible for climatic change.
Spain as a whole has the target of generating 30% of its electricity needs from renewable energy sources by 2010, with half of that amount coming from wind power. In 2006, 20% of the total electricity demand was already produced with renewable energy sources.
Some regions of Spain lead Europe in the use of renewable energy technology and plan to reach 100% renewable energy generation in few years. Castilla y León and Galicia, in particular, are near this goal. In 2006 they fulfilled about 70% of their total electricity demand from renewable energy sources.
If nuclear power is also considered CO2 free, two autonomous communities in Spain have already managed to fulfill their total 2006 electricity demand "free" of CO2 emissions: Extremadura and Castilla-La Mancha. In 2005 Spain became the first country in the world to require the installation of photovoltaic electricity generation in new buildings, and the second in the world (after Israel) to require the installation of solar hot water systems .
The prospects for renewable energy in Scotland in particular are significant. Scotland has an estimated potential of 36.5 GW of installed capacity from wind and 7.5 GW from tidal power, 25% of the estimated total capacity for the European Union for both, and up to 14 GW of wave power potential, 10% of EU capacity. The Scottish Executive has a target of generating 17% to 18% of Scotland's electricity from renewables by 2010, rising to 40% by 2020.
The implementation of wind power is especially widespread in Germany, Spain and Denmark. The results of the investigation carried out by EUWINet (a project financed partly by the European Commission) indicated that the annual median growth of the European wind power market is 35%, and that EU Members contribute around 75% of the world's wind power. Thanks to the growth that has resulted from the use and development of this energy source, the wind power market has helped to generate more than 25,000 jobs within the EU.
The energy policy of the United Kingdom calls for appreciable expansion of wind energy by the year 2010.
The need for the strategic development of photovoltaic systems in the EU has led to the creation of PV-NET, a network that gathers representatives from all the sectors of the research and development community concerned with the photovoltaic solar energy industry (see solar cell). The network promotes communication between speakers through the organisation of specialised conferences, workshops and congresses.
This interaction has led to the editing of a waybill, finished in 2003 with the aim of providing a solid basis for EU leaders and European citizens to base their decisions and policy making and in order to help reach the objective set by the European Commission to multiply the use of photovoltaic systems by thirty times by 2010.
In 2002, the world production of photovoltaic modules surpassed 550 MW, of which more than the 50% was produced in the EU. At the end of 2004, 79% of all European capacity was in Germany, where 794 MWp had been installed. The European Commission anticipates that Germany may have installed around 4,500 MWp by 2010.
Portugal has the largest solar power station in the world , which was completed in January 2007. The complex, called Serpa solar power plant, covers an area of 60-hectare. The 11-megawatt solar power plant will produce enough electricity for 8,000 homes and save more than 30,000 tons a year in greenhouse gas emissions. Near from there, Moura photovoltaic power station is under construction, which will be even bigger with an installed capacity of 62MWp. The first phase of construction should be finished in 2008, while the project completion is scheduled for 2010.
Solar heating is the usage of solar energy to provide space or water heating. Worldwide the use was 88 GWthermal (2005). Growth potential is enormous. At present the EU is second after China in the installations. If all EU countries used solar thermal as enthusiastically as the Austrians, the EU’s installed capacity would already be 91 GWth (130 million m2 today, far beyond the target of 100 million m2 by 2010, set by the White Paper in 1997. In 2005 solar heating in the EU was equivalent to more than 686.000 tons of oil. ESTIF’s minimum target is to produce solar heating equivalent to 5.600.000 tons of oil (2020). A more ambitious, but feasible, target is 73 millions tons of oil per year (2020) – a lorry row spanning 1,5 times around the globe!.
The world's first commercial wave farm is located at the Aguçadora Wave Park near Póvoa de Varzim in Portugal. The farm which uses three Pelamis P-750 machines was officially opened in 2008 by the Portuguese minister for the economy. A second phase of the project is now planned to increase the installed capacity from 2.25MW to 21MW using a further 25 machines .
Funding for a wave farm in Scotland using four Pelamis machines was announced on February 20, 2007 by the Scottish Executive. The funding of just over £4 million is part of a £13 million funding package for marine power in Scotland. The farm, is to be located at the European Marine Test Centre (EMEC) off the coast of Orkney and will have an installed capacity of 3MW. .
The European Commission is currently sponsoring a practical programme of vehicle trials for battery powered vehicles. The most ambitious projects are the €1 million CUTE (Clean Urban Transport for Europe) scheme and the ECTOS (Ecological City Transport System).
The tests are taking place in the cities of Amsterdam, Barcelona, Hamburg, London, Luxembourg, Madrid, Porto, Reykjavík, Stockholm and Stuttgart. It consists of putting into service public buses, called Citaro, manufactured by DaimlerChrysler.
|EU Wind Energy (MW)|
|PV in Europe(MWp)|
|Solar heating in Europe* (kWth)|
|Land|| Total |
|Germany||5 637 800||1 050 000||665 000||525 000|
|Greece||2 301 040||168 000||154 350||150 500|
|Austria||1 828 139||204 868||163 429||127 816|
|Italy||598 661||130 200||88 941||68 417|
|Spain||491 516||122 500||74 760||63 000|
|France||430 920||154 000||85 050||36 400|
|Cyprus||392 140||42 000||35 000||21 000|
|Switzerland||310 484||36 304||27 392||21 812|
|Denmark||253 596||17 710||14 875||14 000|
|Netherlands||222 909||10 280||14 174||18 410|
|UK||175 644||37 800||19 600||17 500|
|Sweden||165 850||19 977||15 835||14 041|
|Portugal||126 665||14 000||11 200||7 000|
|Poland||117 264||28 980||19 390||20 230|
|Slovenia||76 510||4 830||3 360||1 260|
|Czech Republic||74 711||15 421||10 885||8 575|
|Belgium||72 883||24 945||14 164||10 290|
|Slovakia||50 925||5 950||5 250||3 850|
|Bulgaria||17 570||1 540||1 400||1 260|
|Malta||16 702||3 150||2 800||2 951|
|Finland||11 545||2 380||1 668||1 141|
|Luxembourg||11 130||1 750||1 330||1 190|
|Ireland||11 053||3 500||2 450||1 400|
|Hungary||4 375||700||700||1 050|
| EU27+CH |
|* = The relation between collector area and capacity: m2 = 0.7 kWthermal|
|Consumption 2005 (GWh)||Consumption 2006 (GWh)||Consumption 2007 (GWh)|
|8||2 059||1,732||1,732||0||1,621||1 621||0|
|*Total includes vegetable oils in Germany: 7309 GWh (2006) and 2018 GWh (2005) and biogas in Sweden: 225 GWh (2006) and 160 GWh (2005), n.a. = not available|