Renewable energy sources are a diverse group of technologies that capture their energy from existing flows of energy, from on-going natural processes, such as sunshine, wind, flowing water, biological processes, and geothermal heat flows.
||Solar power is the energy produced by the sun. The sun provides energy in two forms – light and heat. The sun can be used to heat water in our homes and businesses. It can also produce electricity. More
||Wind power is the conversion of wind energy into a useful form, such as electricity, using wind turbines. See News release 2008 by the EWEA
||Hydro power is the energy created from the force of running water. It is less expensive than mining fossil fuels and does not contribute to the greenhouse effect. Unlike other renewable sources like the sun or wind, water can be stored which makes it a great way to create electricity. Rivers, dams and waterfalls can be used to generate hydro-electricity. Hydroelectric stations are built where there is running water. The most common are located in dams, where water is stored.
||Biomass results from the process of photosynthesis. The energy from the sun is stored in the plants in a variety of forms (solid biomass, oil crops, sugar and starch plants, and wet biomass). The material can follow several conversion routes and can generate different final energy products such as heat, electricity and liquid biofuels.
Geothermal power results from the heat of the interior of the Earth. Enormous heat is generated inside the Earth and this energy is continuously streaming from the depth to the surface of the Earth. Most of the heat energy is transported as heat conduction but at certain locations, the volcanic or geothermal zones, mass transport of magma (molten rock) and water within the crust results in much more effective energy transport than can be achieved by heat conduction alone.
In 1997, the European Union started working towards a target of a 12% share of renewable energy in gross inland consumption by 2010 representing a doubling of the contribution from renewable energies compared with 1997. Since then, renewable energies have increased their contribution by 55% in absolute terms, according to the 2006 Renewable Energy Road Map.
Internationally, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), renewable energies today cover 13.1% of global primary-energy supply and 17.9% of global electricity production. The IEA's World Energy Outlook 2006 foresees in its Alternative Policy Scenario that the share of renewables in global energy consumption by 2030 will remain largely unchanged at 14%. Renewables in electricity generation are expected to grow to around 25%, according to the IEA.
The World Bank has announced an 87% increase in funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects and programmes in developing countries in the past fiscal year.
- Promotion and Growth of Renewable
Energy Sources and Systems - March 2008
Past EU policy developments include:
The European Commission also launched a fund to mobilise private investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in developing countries and economies in transition. Targeted at small scale projects, the Commission will contribute to the fund with up to 80 millions euros over 2007-2010. Read more about the Global Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Fund (GEEREF). The GEEREF is part of the approach put forward in the Green Paper A European Strategy for Sustainable, Competitive and Secure Energy
Satisfying our energy needs over the coming decades will be a big challenge. The concept of a transition to a carbon-free economy has become broadly understood and been outlined by many actors from G81, the United Nations, the International Energy Agency, Governments and industry alike.
The Commission estimates that the 20% target will make it possible to cut CO2 emissions by 600-900 million tonnes per year, generating savings of between 150 billion and 200 billion, if the price of CO2 rises to 25/tonne. Moreover, developing alternative energy sources to fossil fuels will help guarantee security of energy supply in the EU and reduce the energy bill resulting from increases in the price of fossil fuels. Consequently, if the EU meets its 20% target in 2020, it is estimated that savings will be made of over 250 million TOE (tonnes of oil equivalent) per year by 2020, of which 200 million TOE would otherwise be imported. Furthermore, developing the technologies used in the renewable energy sector will create new business opportunities, particularly for exporting these technologies. It is also expected to have a positive impact on employment and GDP growth. The cost of renewable energy has been falling steadily for the last 20 years, but remains higher than that of conventional energy sources. This is above all because the external costs of fossil fuels have not been internalised. The average additional cost of meeting the 20% target is estimated at between 10 billion and 18 billion per year, depending on energy prices and the research efforts made.
The amount of electricity produced with renewable energy has grown by 30% in the EU-27, from 371 TWh in 1997 to 477 TWh in 2006, with hydropower remaining the dominant source of RES-E. Hydropower’s dominance is however slowly decreasing due in part to below average rainfall in recent years, but also to continuous increases in deployment of other ‘new’ renewable energy sources such as wind and biomass. In 2006, hydropower represented 64% of RES-E generation in the EU-27.
Following a 1997 White Paper on Renewable Energy Sources, Directive 2001/77/EC enacts the promotion of electricity from renewable energy sources in the internal electricity market. It concerns electricity produced from non-fossil renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, wave, tidal, hydroelectric, biomass, landfill gas, sewage treatment gas and biogas energies. Along this Directive, each Member State must show indicative targets concerning the share of electricity produced from renewable energy sources in gross electricity consumption in 2010. At a Community level, these national targets must be compatible with the global indicative target of 12% of gross domestic energy consumption in 2010, and in particular with the indicative share of 22.1% of electricity from renewable energy sources out of the total electricity consumption of the Community in 2010.
Member States are required to review their existing legislative and regulatory frameworks concerning authorisation procedures in order to reduce regulatory and non-regulatory obstacles, to rationalise and speed up administrative procedures and to ensure that the rules are transparent and non-discriminatory. The Member States that joined in 2004 must also apply the provisions of the Directive. Special mention on that is included in the Parliament report authored by MEP Claude Turmes (Greens-EFA, Lux) to give renewable energies priority access to existing electricity and gas infrastructure. Member states should impose new rules that would promote, or oblige, the use of renewable technologies in new and existing buildings. The permanent representatives committee of the Council (Coreper) will now also address these two issues at technical level, with the issue of priority grid access expected to present some difficulties for certain member states. More
Renewables potential in the EU
Solar energy accounts for only 0.5% of the EU's energy use, but is fast-growing, owing to feed-in tariffs in several Members States, notably Germany and Spain. In 2006, Spain passed a law making solar panels compulsory in new and renovated buildings, a precedent that other Mediterranean countries could follow. So far, solar is dominated by solar thermal technologies, but Spain launched a concentrating solar power plant in 2007, and although PV use is currently limited, it is seen as having potential over the medium to long term.
Wind is the fast-growing sector in the EU, and could contribute 12% of electricity by 2020, with one-third most likely from offshore installations. Offshore wind currently accounts for around 2% of EU installed wind capacity, but it is expected that between 20 and 40 GW will be generated by 2020. Europe has the potential to generate 300GW installed wind power in the EU by 2030, with half from offshore wind, meeting 23% of European electricity generation, assuming demand grows at the rate predicted by the European Commission. With greater ambition for energy efficiency, wind's share could reach 30% by 2030. Spain and Germany have had strong growth, but the greatest potential is in the UK and Ireland.
Hydropower capacity increased in the EU between 1990-2005 but output has declined owing to lower rainfall. This resource is not expected to add considerably to growth in renewables generation, owing to environmental concerns and shortage of suitable sites. Ocean energy is an area yet to be exploited to anywhere close to its full potential. Countries with Atlantic coasts, with the Atlantic's long fetch in prevailing winds, have enormous potential for energy generation.
Biomass and waste are the most widely deployed renewable energy source in the EU, accounting for two-thirds of total EU renewables capacity. Latvia, Sweden and Finland are particularly strong in using this resource.
Geothermal is another sector with potential for growth. Italy has the greatest proportion of geothermal energy use (90% of the 4% of geothermal's contribution to EU renewables), but parts of Austria, Germany, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Slovenia and Poland have high potential, which could allow electricity generation. Other parts of Europe have scope to increase their use of geothermal for heating.
In a communication of 8 February 2006 entitled 'An EU Strategy for Biofuels', the Commission defines the role that biofuels can play replacing fossil fuel energy sources in the transport sector. The development of biofuels is meant to reduce greenhouse gases emissions as well as creating jobs, support research and innovation and developing countries affected by the EU sugar reform.
The 5.75% target for the contribution of biofuels to total fuel consumption by 2010, set on the basis of Directive 2003/30/EC , will probably not be met either unless current policies are strengthened. Only two Member States met the intermediate target of 2% for the contribution of biofuels by 2005. In 2005, biodiesel accounted for 81.5% of total biofuel production in the EU, while bioethanol accounted for 18.5%.
The development of industry-led European technology platforms such as the European Biofuels Technology Platform, should make it possible to establish a shared European vision and strategy for the production and use of biofuels.
Heating and cooling
The European Commission is of the opinion that the heating and cooling sector, which accounts for approximately 50% of final energy consumption, is not doing enough to exploit the potential of renewable energy sources, which contributed less than 10% of the energy used for heating or cooling in 2005. The EU has not so far adopted any legislation with the direct aim of promoting heating or cooling from renewable sources.
The percentage of renewable energy used in this sector has risen only slowly. Biomass is the principal renewable energy source used for heating. The extent to which other energy sources have been developed varies considerably depending on the type of source and the country in question (for example: geothermal heat in Sweden and Hungary and solar thermal energy in Germany and Greece, among others). See the report of McKinsey & Company on the Economics of Solar Power.
European market for REs
European manufacturers have a 75% share of the global market for wind turbines according to the BTM World Market Update (March 2007).
The idea of the Energy and Climate Package is also that renewable energy can constitute an important asset in the completion of an energy single market and ensure energy security to the benefit of both consumers and producers. This has been reaffirmed on October 10th 2008, by President Barroso and Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs who have welcomed the agreement reached by EU Ministers on the Commission's legislative package for the EU electricity and gas market. Commissioner Piebalgs stated: "I am pleased that Member States are supporting the Commission's drive to create a real internal energy market. The internal market is essential to deliver all three of Europe's energy objectives: a competitive European economy, security of energy supply and sustainability."
In the News
A new directive will lay down mandatory national targets to be achieved by the Member States through promoting the use of renewable energy in the electricity, heating and cooling, and transport sectors in order to ensure that by 2020 renewable energy makes up at least 20% of the EU's total energy consumption. The legislative resolution was adopted with 635 votes in favour, 25 against and 25 abstentions. The agreement foresees that by 2020 renewable energy - biofuels, electricity and hydrogen produced from renewable sources - account for at least 10% of the EU's total fuel consumption in all forms of transport.
The main objectives of the new legislation concerns target sharing, biofuels, grid access and support and flexibility:
||Binding national targets for use of renewables as a share of the energy mix were adopted, adding up to an EU share of 20% by 2020
||Interim national targets were adopted, over which the Commission has significant control
||The 10% target for renewables in transport is adopted, but watered down by the fact that renewables in electric cars count 2.5 times towards the 10% and 2nd generation biofuels also get a bonus in the way they are counted. In addition, trains running on renewables now also count towards the target
||There will be no revision of the 20% target, as was initially suggested in the review of flexibility mechanisms
Grid access and support
||The sustainability standards for biofuels have been strengthened on some aspects, especially the greenhouse gas threshold and impacts from indirect land use change will be integrated in the future, although some groups felt the rules there could have been stronger
Priority grid access and dispatch for renewables
A good framework for national support policies
||No certificate trading system
||The large project clause is out
European Renewable Energy Council Press Release
Greenpeace Press Release
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Source: SCADPlus, Europa, EEA, Euractiv, Pre-Lex, Eur-Lex