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News Extra: EU successfully displacing fossil fuels through increased use of renewables

02 May 2017

This is the conclusion of a new report from the European Environment Agency which details how renewables' share of the European energy mix is approaching 17% and has led to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions across the bloc of around 10% since 2005.

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The report, entitled Renewable energy in Europe 2017: recent growth and knock-on effects, provides data on how the EU's transition to a cleaner energy mix has evolved in recent years, as the bloc's reliance on coal has reduced and energy developers have increasingly focused on bringing renewables projects online.

Renewables share of the energy mix in the EU rose from 15% in 2013 to 16% in 2014, before then rising again to 16.7% in 2015. Renewables accounted for 77% of all new electricity-generating in 2015 - marking the eighth year in a row renewables provided the majority of new capacity.

The report calculates that the surge in renewables capacity means that since 2005, EU greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 10% - equivalent to the domestic emissions of Italy.
It said progress was unevenly spread across Europe, with renewables expanding to take up 30% of the power load in many Scandinavian countries, but only 5% in Malta.

The UK had Europe’s seventh best record for the intensity of its greenhouse gas emissions, but was a mid-table performer in terms of emissions per capita, according to figures compiled by the European Environment Agency (EEA).

The EEA’s report suggests that the EU is broadly on track to achieve its goals of 20% emissions cuts and 20% renewable energy share by 2020.

But a more challenging target for 2050 – of reducing emissions by at least 80% – will require acceleration after 2030, when tough decisions about phasing out internal combustion engines and oil supplies will have to be taken.

Another recent report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) provides some detail on which EU countries are moving ahead fastest with renewables.

In the EU, solar energy capacity reached 104 GW, up 5 GW on 2015. The biggest expansion took place in Germany and the UK, with 1,200 MW and 2,063 MW of additional capacity respectively, compared to 2015. Spain was up 15 MW, similar to Portugal (+13 MW) and France (+12 MW).

As regards wind energy, the top performers in the EU were Germany (+5 GW) and Spain, which saw 49 MW growth. In Europe, only Germany is ahead of Spain in terms of total wind energy capacity.

According to the IRENA report, hydropower growth in Europe was a little less than 2 GW.

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