Review of Environment, Energy and Economics - Re3 Is Europe on Track with its 2020 Renewable Energy Target?


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Is Europe on Track with its 2020 Renewable Energy Target?
by Manfred Hafner and Simone Tagliapietra
Energy - Articles

Over the last years EU energy policy has strongly focused on the development of renewable energy, also through the adoption of a dedicated 2020 target. But is the EU currently on track to meet this target? With this article, FEEM energy analysts Manfred Hafner and Simone Tagliapietra aim to provide a quick overview on the issue, looking at both the EU-wide and the national levels of analysis.

Keywords: Renewable Energy, EU Energy Policy, 2020 Climate and Energy Package

JEL classification: Q40, Q42, Q48

Suggested citation: Hafner, Manfred, Tagliapietra, Simone, Is Europe on Track with its 2020 Renewable Energy Target? (November 5, 2015). Review of Environment, Energy and Economics (Re3),

Over the last years the rise of renewable energy has represented a key game changer of the EU energy market. This trend has been mainly due to the strong policies put in place by the European Commission (EC) to support and incentivize renewables in the framework of its wider climate action.

The share of renewable energy in the EU gross final energy consumption has grown from a level of 11.9% in 2009 (year of the introduction of the Renewable Energy Directive) to a level of 15% in 2013. Considering this quick growth, it is thus possible to expect the EU to meet its overall 20% renewable energy target by 2020.

However, the EU 2020 renewable energy target is not just a EU-wide story, but also (and particularly) a national-level story. In fact, according to the previously mentioned 2009 Directive, each Member State has to reach its own individual target concerning the share of renewable energy in energy consumption plus a target of 10% share of renewable energy in transportation.

This article seeks to look beyond the conventional EU aggregate figure, in order to provide a clear snapshot on where Member States currently stand along their 2020 renewable energy targets' path.

A look at Member States' shares of renewable energy in energy consumption

EU Member States currently present very different shares of renewable energy in gross final energy consumption and also very different levels of proximity to their respective 2020 target (Fig. 1).

Figure 1 - Share of renewable energy in gross final energy consumption, 2009, 2013, 2020 [target]

Source: own elaboration on Eurostat (2015).

Sweden, Estonia, Romania, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Italy have already reached, if not surpassed, their 2020 target. Other countries, like Latvia, Finland, Austria, Denmark, Croatia and Greece are also very close to it. However, all other countries, including major economies like Germany, France and the United Kingdom still have a long way to go in order to meet their commitments.

As far as the composition of the renewable energy mix is concerned, between 2009 and 2013 hydropower remained the primary source of renewable electricity generation. In the meantime, wind staged a substantial boom, overcoming biomass as second largest contributor to renewable electricity. Solar electricity generation also rapidly expanded, albeit starting from a structural low level of deployment.

Figure 2 - Electricity generated from renewable energy sources, 2009-2013

Source: own elaboration on Eurostat (2015).

With its recently published Renewable Energy Progress Report, the EC asserts that reaching the 2020 renewable energy target remains 'fully possible for the EU as a whole and for the majority of Member States', and it details this prospect by presenting a scenario on which several countries do not achieve their targets in 2020: Belgium, Spain, France, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom (see Fig. 3).

Figure 3 - Expected renewable energy deployment in Member States in 2020 and relative targets

Source: European Commission (p. 5), based on TU Wien (Green-X) projections (2014)

The most problematic sector: renewable energy in transportation

As far as the penetration of renewable energy in transportation is concerned the situation is, as an overall trend, not particularly encouraging. In this sector deployment has been much slower than in the electricity and heating and cooling sectors.

As illustrated in Fig. 4, the EU share of renewable energy in transportation reached 5.4% in 2013, with only Sweden and Finland having already reached (if not surpassed) the 10% target. All other countries lag far behind, putting seriously into question even the feasibility of achieving the overall EU target by 2020.

Figure 4 - Share of renewable energy in fuel consumption of transport, 2013

: own elaboration on Eurostat (2015).


This quick overview shows that even if the EU is on the right path to achieve its overall 2020 renewable energy target, the situation is substantially fragmented at national level. This implies that additional measures should be promoted in the countries that are still lagging behind in the achievement of their targets.

This would represent an important step towards a more balanced decarbonisation path in the EU, also in view of the post-2020 horizon and the forthcoming 2030 Climate and Energy Framework.









Manfred Hafner - Associate Researcher, FEEM

Simone Tagliapietra - Senior Researcher, FEEM