A report published by the European Environment Agency has shown that the increasingly rapid rollout of renewable energy sources around the EU has had a major impact on bloc’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The share of the EU’s energy mix generated by renewable sources has been increasing steadily over the past few years, accounting for the majority of newly installed generators since 2007. In 2015, renewables accounted for some 77% of new capacity installed across the bloc.
The report found that the almost 17% of the EU’s energy mix is currently made up of renewables. This is up from 16% in 2014, and 15% in 2013. According to the current trajectory, the EU is set to meet its target of a 20% renewable energy mix by 2020.
The rapid expansion of renewable energy sources (RES), along with the closure of coal plants and other fossil fuel plants across the continent, has had a significant net positive effect on emissions.
The report said: “While fossil fuel capacity needs to be decommissioned at a faster rate to ensure that the EU avoids stranded assets or a lock-in of carbon-intensive power plants by 2030, the rate of replacement of carbon-intensive energy sources by RES to date has already resulted in GHG emissions reductions in the EU electricity sector, in the consumption of energy for heating and cooling, and in transport.”
Overall, “RES progress since 2005 allowed the EU to cut its fossil fuel use by 11 % and its GHG emissions by 10 % in 2015”.
Use of renewable energy varies from country to country as well as from sector to sector. Electricity and heating/cooling make up the two largest markets renewable power in the EU. In absolute terms, the largest amount of renewable energy is used for heating/cooling, with about 18% of energy used coming from RES. However, at 28%, the portion of electricity use coming from RES is higher.
Lagging somewhat behind is transport. Around 6% of the energy used for transport was renewable across the EU in 2014. The difference between renewable use in the power sector and in the transport sector is similar domestically. In the UK, largely thanks to the rapid closure of coal plants, the power sector is decarbonising at a promising rate, but transport still has some catching up to do.
Separately, a Conservative thinktank, Bright Blue, has found that a large majority of the party’s voters and supporters are in favour of maintaining the EU’s environmental regulations following Brexit.
The results of Bright Blue’s poll are promising with respect to environmental imperatives, with more than half of those asked ranking renewable energy generation among their top priorities.
Rebecca Pow MP said: “In this Brexit world we should adopt wholesale the current EU environment legislation relating to areas including water, wildlife, habitats, beaches and climate change and tailor it to our particular needs, as time goes on.
“Conservatives have always cared for and been custodians of the environment but this report demonstrates we can be even bolder in our future approach to this area and I shall be working to encourage this endeavour.”