EU 2020 Renewable Energy Targets: Part I

The progress being made in attaining the 2020 renewable energy (RE) targets is reviewed for 10 EU countries and for the EU as a whole using BP 2015 data. There are two main targets to be met 1) 20% of all primary energy from RE sources and 2) 10% of transport fuel from RE sources. The EU as a whole is projected to narrowly miss the 20% RE target by about 1%. The transport fuel target is less easy to estimate but will likely be missed by a substantial margin.

There is a wide range in achievement levels between individual countries that were allowed to set their own targets but with the EU aggregate being 20%. The UK looks set to narrowly miss its target of 15%. France, Poland and the Netherlands are set to miss their targets of 23, 15 and 14% by a mile. Germany and Ireland are on course to meet their targets of 18 and 16%. Italy, Spain, Portugal and Denmark look set to far exceed their targets of 20, 20, 31 and 30%.


Roger Andrews visited the topic of EU 2020 targets in September 2015 where he compared Eurostat figures with BP and found some discrepancies. My approach here is rather different and I go into a different level of detail. I use BP 2015 energy consumption data normalised to million tonnes oil equivalent (Mtoe). To compare technologies that generate electricity directly – nuclear, hydro, wind and solar – with oil, gas and coal, BP adjust the data thus:

Converted on the basis of thermal equivalence assuming 38% conversion efficiency in a modern thermal power station.

In other words, rather than adjusting oil, gas and coal down to account for thermal losses in conversion to electricity, the primary electricity is adjusted up by 100/38. If a different convention were used, such as may be the case for official EU statistics, then different results will be obtained.

Details of 2020 targets are given here, where it says:

The EU’s Renewable energy directive sets a binding target of 20% final energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020. To achieve this, EU countries have committed to reaching their own national renewables targets ranging from 10% in Malta to 49% in Sweden. They are also each required to have at least 10% of their transport fuels come from renewable sources by 2020.

All EU countries have adopted national renewable energy action plans showing what actions they intend to take to meet their renewables targets. These plans include sectorial targets for electricity, heating and cooling, and transport; planned policy measures; the different mix of renewables technologies they expect to employ; and the planned use of cooperation mechanisms.

The same web page says this:

In 2014, the projected share of renewable energy in the gross final energy consumption is 15.3%.

According to BP, the figure is 13.2% for 2014 so the various data sets are not exactly aligned as was dealt with by Roger. This may be due to different conventions used to normalise different energy sources to a common datum as discussed above.

Finally before proceeding to look at the data, it is important to note, as Roger brought to our attention, countries have got different targets for 2020. The table shows these self declared targets, which, unweighted, work out at an average of 20.2%. The second column shows my projected estimates, the details of which are discussed below and in Part II of this post.


The European Union Primary Energy

EU primary energy consumption peaked at 1839 Mtoe in 2006 and since then has fallen by 11.8% to 2014. Many countries display this type of pattern and it is pertinent to ask why decades of energy and economic growth has turned into a decade of energy decline and economic stagnation? There are a number of factors that may explain this but a prime candidate is the energy price inflation that took place in the period 2002 to 2008 that culminated in the finance crash. The earlier spike in oil price back in 1980 produced a similar though more short-lived effect. It is also pertinent to ask to what extent on-going high energy prices are caused by EU energy policy that targets CO2 emissions? Other factors include the ongoing € crisis and unsustainable levels of debt.

Converting the above to percentages we see that coal has been the main loser in the European energy transition that has been an evolving act since 1965. In simple terms coal has been replaced by natural gas and nuclear in electricity generation and space heating. In the last decade we see the impact of the EU dictated Energiewende. We see how pathetic solar production is, a consequence of misguided deployment of solar panels in high latitudes where The Sun seldom shines and shines barely at all in winter. The “Other” category is mainly biomass, a euphemism for N American forests.

The renewables component now amounts to 13.2% but of that 5.2% is legacy hydro. Thus the EU Energiewende so far has resulted in the addition of 8% to the primary energy budget. Has this been worth it? Can the environment withstand more? The lines projecting to 2020 project renewables growth from which it can be seen that the EU as a whole will likely miss the 20% target by a narrow margin. This assumes that investment continues apace, which it might not do.

The European Union Biofuels

The analysis of biofuels presented here assumes that all oil consumed is used as liquid fuel which is clearly not the case. Hence this analysis is simplistic and will underestimate the % of biofuel in the transport sector. However, this UK DECC report says:

Consumption in the transport sector represented 38 per cent of total final consumption of UK energy products in 2014.

In 2014, oil represented 36.8% of total UK primary energy consumed (according to BP). And so I believe the assumption that all oil is used in transport will not be too wide of the mark.

The chart shows that EU biofuels production are insignificant compared to oil consumption. And it must be borne in mind that the biofuels are themselves created out of fertiliser and pesticides (made from petroleum), diesel and electricity. There is very little primary energy addition in the creation of biofuels but they do reduce food supplies and produce upwards pressure on food prices.

Note that this chart is not zero scaled. EU biofuel production stalled at about 2% of oil+biofuel in around 2010. The transparent idiocy of trying to replace oil with food has evidently persuaded most countries to abandon the folly. Each of the 10 countries I’ve looked at show similar low levels of penetration. I’m unsure what sanctions there will be for countries failing to obey the orders from Brussels?

The UK

At this point it was my intention to present and discuss the charts for the 10 selected countries. There are a range of interesting observations to be made. But this would have grown into a monster post. And so here I present the data for the UK as an example and will present the remaining countries in a separate post.

Since 1965, UK energy consumption has actually been quite flat. It reflects the EU picture of gas and nuclear substituting for coal. There was a near term peak consumption of 228 Mtoe in 2005 with a subsequent decline brought about by high energy prices and energy policies. It remains to be seen if this decline is a good thing or not.

In 2010, when the 2020 targets were set, the UK basically had a standing start. Scottish hydro that produces up to 1 GW peak supply is largely irrelevant at the UK scale. The UK embarked upon a three pronged strategy of 1) deploying solar PV, 2) deploying onshore and offshore wind turbines and 3) converting coal fired power stations to burn North American wood.

The UK set itself a modest target of 15% renewables by 2020 that it seems likely to miss by 1 to 2 percent, assuming that investment continues apace which it may not do with subsidies being rolled back and a countryside already full of wind turbines and disgruntled citizens.

In 2014, the UK had 7.3% of total energy from new renewables. And so, if the target is to be met, one needs to imagine the level of deployment almost doubling between then and 2020. The problem is not just finding suitable sites and combating negative public opinion but more crucially is one of keeping the fossil fuel generators in business since they provide essential load balancing service and backup. There are signs that the UK Government and Energy Secretary, Amber Rudd, are growing weary of the universal need for subsidies of one form or another to keep the electricity generation sector alive. It is possible that over the next 5 years that the UK flirtation with wind and solar may stall. Should the UK vote to leave the EU then it will definitely stall in England and Wales.

Should the UK miss its 15% target as seems increasingly likely then there is a provision for the UK to haggle with countries that have exceeded theirs and to some how accrue part of their production. A key part of the existing UK strategy is to greatly expand interconnection with Europe from current 3 to future 12 GW. Having successfully got rid of steel production it seems that next in line for offshoring is electricity production getting rid of those pesky emissions, jobs and prosperity.

Concluding Comments

The original 2010 EU energy bill makes for interesting reading:

The price of failure is too high.

Energy is the life blood of our society. The well-being of our people, industry and economy depends on safe, secure, sustainable and affordable energy. At the same time, energy related emissions account for almost 80% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The energy challenge is thus one of the greatest tests which Europe has to face. It will take decades to steer our energy systems onto a more secure and sustainable path. Yet the decisions to set us on the right path are needed urgently as failing to achieve a well-functioning European energy market will only increase the costs for consumers and put Europe’s competitiveness at risk.

Over the next ten years, energy investments in the order of € 1 trillion are needed, both to diversify existing resources and replace equipment and to cater for challenging and changing energy requirements. Structural changes in energy supply, partly resulting from changes in indigenous production, oblige European economies to choose among energy products and infrastructures. These choices will be felt over the next 30 years and more. To enable these decisions to be taken urgently calls for an ambitious policy framework. Postponing these decisions will have immeasurable repercussions on society as regards both longer-term costs and security.

The fundamental importance of safe, secure and affordable energy is hailed and recognised but The Commission has none the less set out to wreck The Continent’s safe, secure and affordable energy system. I dare say this has not been intentional but it must surely be time to sack all the economists and to employ engineers instead.

While it is normally Germany’s Energiewende that is in the news, it is in fact Italy, Spain, Portugal and Denmark that are leading the EU renewables charge. While the Danish economy is normally in rude health, the question does need to be asked to what extent over indulgence in RE lies at the heart of economic malaise in these other countries?


Following the theme of Roger’s earlier post it is noted that there are large discrepancies between the Eurostat numbers and BP. Eurostat has the UK on 5.1% in 2013 while I / BP estimate 6.3%. That is a large absolute difference. Eurostat has Sweden on 52% in 2013 (impossible) while I / BP estimate 37% RE.

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37 Responses to EU 2020 Renewable Energy Targets: Part I

  1. Peter Lang says:

    Euan, your quote in ‘Concluding Remarks’ begins “the price of failure is too high”.

    We’ll here’s an example of the price of the EU’s policy failure with renewable energy:

    Energy Policies and Electricity Prices: Cautionary Tales From the EU

    Figure: Wind and Solar Capacity and Electricity Prices, Select Countries, 2012

  2. Math Geurts says:

    The EU’s Renewable energy directive sets a binding target of 20% “final energy consumption”‘ from renewable sources by 2020. No, it is not the same.

  3. Gaznotprom says:

    Asking the question does anyone know, how much of this is UN mandated part of the entanglement of Agenda 21? And the EU simply put their directive sticker on UN mandates…

  4. jim brough says:

    The drive to renewables is based on the assumption that fossil fuels cause global warming and….. ” climate change ” by CO2 emission.
    Low CO2 emission technology like nuclear fission has been around since the late 1950’s, a technology which can give reliable electricity around the clock.

    Sad that nuclear has been discarded in favour of the promises made by solar and wind, promises which now rely on the development of battery storage.

    We can ask how many tidal and wave-based generators have been successful over the last 50 years.

    • RDG says:

      Reality is not an option.

      We firmly and deeply believe in 1’s and 0’s, such as trillion dollar computational machines masking insolvency, and not productive capacity.

      Richard Jones, former physicist, must have just had his earworm implanted because in this hilarious comment exchange he literally believes that destroying the economy with “renewables” will prevent being swept away by the rising oceans. And he’s so gullible that he hasn’t noticed that the Global Economy was insolvent many years ago and requires “subsidies” (liabilities with no assets hence Ponzi) to function (bubbles) else it will collapse.

      In other words, Richard Jones deeply believes in free energy hoaxes, and he calls it “scaleable renewables” whatever the hell that means. And he’s a physicist not a history major like Amber Dumb.

  5. Euan Mearns says:

    This post began life as an examination of the future expansion of UK interconnectors where 9GW additions are now planned giving a total future of 12 GW. This led me to look into renewables accounting first which seems to be a minefield in itself. I have a few questions:

    1) How is CO2 accounted for on imported electricity? If we import gas then the CO2 accrues to the country that burns it. But if we import steel, the CO2 accrues to the country who made the steel. If the UK imports 12 GW of electricity in 2025, where will the CO2 be counted and how?

    2) How are the subsidies going to be accounted for? Will they fall to the country of origin? or move with the electricity.

    3) How is the provenance of electricity on an interconnector allocated?

    It struck me that the UK may be aiming to reduce its emissions quite simply by outsourcing generation?

    • nukie says:

      As far as I know CO2 emissions of electric power generation are counted where the power station is. For gas production, the CO2- emissions caused by running th gas well are counted where the well is, the CO2 emissions caused by burning the gas where it is burned.
      So burning Oil/Gas/Coal/lignite of own production and selling it elswhere rises your CO2 emissions by maximum (see german lignite plants) while importing electricity is the fastst way to locally reduce CO2 emissions.
      The silver bullet for climate would be to reduce your CO2 emissions while increasing export of electricity and goods like steel, aluminum etc.

    • mike h says:

      1; CO2 is accounted for in the EU ETS at the installation level, so as nukie says, the country it is produced.

      2; Subsidies are also paid at the generator level. This means that for Germany (one of the top 5 power exporters in the world) they pay the subsidy to the generator and then export the power at wholesale level

      3; It is possible to demonstrate provenance of electricity in europe using REGO (

      These can be used when you import power from one country to another and are purchased by end users who wish to show their power usage as provenant from a renewable source. I’m pretty sure that power generated using a subsidy is NOT eligible for this, so the vast majority of these are Hydro.

      There was a trade around importing renewable energy into the UK (to generate a LEC or Levy Exemption Certificate) but that is obsolete.

      The Carbon floor price is proving to be incredibly effective at bringing gas on in the place of coal. This has done far more to reduce CO2 emissions than imports.

  6. singletonengineer says:

    In brief, Euan, you are correct. Outsourcing generation is no smarter than outsourcing any other industry.

    The prices to be paid will include jobs, knowledge, authority and climate.

  7. Euan Mearns says:

    Eurostat has Sweden on 52% in 2013 (impossible) while I / BP estimate 37% RE.

    By way of partial explanation of this:

    Biofuel consumption or imports are not accounted for anywhere by BP who simply report bio fuel production. I believe Sweden imports substantial sugar cane ethanol from Brazil. And renewable heat (heat pumps) are not accounted for by BP.

  8. robertok06 says:

    “Italy, Spain, Portugal and Denmark look set to far exceed their targets of 20, 20, 31 and 30%.”

    … and yet Italy imports every year 44 TWh or electricity, in large majority it is nuclear coming from france, or switzerland (mostly french nuclear stored overnight in Swiss pumped-hydro) or Slovenia… more than all of the 19 GWp of PV and 9 GW of wind combined…
    For the first 4 months of 2016, Italy has generated a lot less electricity from renewables (wind, PV, geothermal and hydro) as compared to the same 4 months of 2015, due to a lack of new installations.

    Math is merciless, isn’t it, my dear “greens”? 🙂

    • mike h says:

      The flow from Switzerland is now as much about managing the German solar peaks as french nuclear. This has also pretty much destroyed the business model of pumping french nuclear power up at night to release in the day.

      The math on Italian renewables is not merciless, it’s annual variability.
      Hydro significantly underperformed this year. Wind did better, solar and geothermal show no significant change year on year.

      A long term view on Italian power generation sources should you be interested:

      Italy massively overpaid for it’s renewables. Just as the the UK seems to be about to do the same for Nuclear.

      • Stuart Brown says:

        Or indeed as the UK is paying for offshore wind?
        Hornsea One – 1.2GW some of the time – £4.2bn support – strike price £140/MWh at 2012 prices, should be up to speed by 2020


        Hinckley Point C – 3.2GW nearly all the time – £2bn support (OK, agreed so far) – strike price £92.50/MWh, Could be up to speed by 2023 if we got a move on like the Chinese.

        Not saying it’s a good deal or bad, but we seem to be managing worse deals than Hinkley Point!

        • mike h says:

          You’re absolutely correct Stuart, offshore wind is fiercely expensive, it’s likely to get cheaper, but it’s pretty clear that onshore wind represents by far the best value for money today for new renewables.

          It’s worth pointing out that those annual costs, while correct have rather different lifetimes.

          Hinkley Point is for 35 years.
          Hornsea 1 is for 15 years.

          At precisely the moment the power system requires maximum flexibility, the proposal is to build a machine that is not only the most expensive ever built, but also it’s contractual structure creates no incentive whatsoever to reduce output in times of a surplus.

          • gweberbv says:


            unless you are willing and able to build a few 10 GW interconnectors to locatations more than 1000 miles away to balance the strong variations in wind output, onshore wind has a rather low ceiling for the maximum reachable penetration (without curtailung huge amounts of wind generation). Offshore output from locations like Hornsea is much more stable, thus the ceiling is higher.
            For having wind power as major pillar of electricity supply, you need to aim for capacitiy factors of at least 40%. Only offshore can deliever that.

          • Stuart Brown says:

            Gweberv – or we could just have Hinkley Point C with twice the output for half the cost. And probably also reduce the CO2 (I would say certainly because it won’t unduly upset the CCGTs we need to balance demand!) – which is the point of the exercise really.

            But that’s not what the goal is apparently – we should add renewables just because…

          • Stuart Brown says:

            And a capacity factor of 90%, I forgot to add…

          • gweberbv says:


            if you are able as a society to keep the NPPs running no matter what, then going nuclear might be a viable option. (Still maybe, the EPR design is not the best choice.)

            But if you have to face the possibility that anti-nuke movements will gain strong influence (or already have it), then starting new projects is a risky business. Can easily be a huge waste of money and time.

          • Stuart Brown says:

            Gweberbv – if I was in charge of society the peasants would be at the gates of my castle with pitchforks within a month. I would not argue with your points at all, even though I think we differ on the best way of getting to a CO2 emission free future.

            In the UK at least, I don’t think we have ever abandoned a NPP once we started actually building it – so I’m still hoping someone will start putting bricks on top of each other at Hinkley Point. Someone may come along to tell me I’m wrong.

  9. RDG says:

    >>I dare say this has not been intentional but it must surely be time to sack all the economists >>and to employ engineers instead.

    Good luck with that. The earworms are being implanted and there are no exceptions.

    Janet Yellin: “The USA is not a Bubble Economy”

    Actually, the Globalization Scam is a Colossal Ponzi Scheme. How can it not be deliberate?

    Corporation 1: “We have to outsource to save costs and be strong!”

    Every other corporation does the same thing taking along with it Demand. Smart. Now all the corporations become hollowed out marketing shells with the goal of replacing the head office with an A.I. Computer.

    Western Civ: “We made the quarter by going out of business”

    “In Free Energy Hoaxes we Believe”

    Let us Chant: “Cheaper cheaper cheaper…”

  10. mark4asp says:

    Biomass is a huge proportion according to the EU (Eurostat). In 2013, “biomass and waste” was 64.2% of EU renewable energy primary production.,_2003_and_2013_YB15.png

    Given that all the solar, wind, and hydro consumed here is also produced here, and that far more biomass is consumed than produced in the EU, the charts look like the just ignored biomass.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      I’d guess that BP looks only at biomass burned for power generation while the EU figures may include biomass burned for home heat, i.e. logs.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Some eye popping numbers there. Germany 2013, 71% biomass + waste; 13% wind. Is this credible? Why would they bother with all those wind turbines?

      • Euan

        To confirm you can look at the AGEE (Federal ministry for economiic affairs and energy) data sets “Development of renewable energy sources in Germany 2014”

        From their as of Feb 2015 version reporting on 2014, Biomass contributed 30.6% to the electricity total (despite having under 10% of the total install capacity for renewable electricity generation) and contributed 86.6% to heat consumption. It contributed 90% to ‘renewable’ transport.

        Best not to look at the investments page.

      • nukie says:

        Simple cause: Biomass can not be extended. It conributes a lot to heating (traditional wood fire with modern eqipment is still usual at countryside, free wood comes from the own forest, same as the last 1000 years ago, But also wood does not grow faster than 1000 years ago, and germany has no intention to import american forrests. Also it is couted 1kWh Wood, thermal = 1kWh electricity, but 1kWh electricity is able to produce 4-5 kWh heat, one kWh wood (thermal) produces 0,9kWh useable heat.

      • Jurg Burg says:

        In Germany, many if not most houses have wood burner ovens that generate a lot of heat. There are also many electrical plants that burn household waste (even with all the crazy recycling Germans are forced to do); so I’m not surprised at the high number for biomass + waste. The more interesting number would be what the percentage for waste is. Kinda funny that burning one’s waste is considered “renewable”. Also, we were told by some neighbours where we live in Germany, that a great deal of the recycling we do actually gets burned in the waste power plant.

        • Alex says:

          I concur on that. I wonfder how wood burning is measured?

          After reading the recent post on Scotland and brownouts, everyone in Scotland will be buying a wood burner.

  11. Alex says:

    Interesting that France is projected to be 10% off. If they use more renewables, it may not make any difference to emissions as they already have low emissions.

    France could makebig reductions by moving to EVs, which reduces emissions by far more (to about 20g/km) than EVs in the UK or Germany (about 80g/km). They could make up the nuclear shortfall by improving building efficiency and installing heat pumps.

    However, for the target, it does little. It reduces the denominator (total energy) but doesn’t increase the numerator.

    Crazy target!

  12. mark4asp says:

    The French will miss their 23% target because it was impossible to meet. Here are the countries in Euan’s table above showing 2014 per capita CO2 emissions, with Sweden added. The 3rd column is league position within the EU28+2 (EU + Switzerland and Norway) Look how well France does. She is tenth with 5 ton CO2 per capita. Other countries may be doing better in meeting renewable energy targets but French nuclear power means they emit less CO2 than most. France also uses a lot more electricity than puny Britain (which has a similar sized population, for example) yet the French also emit less CO2. I added Sweden because they have the highest RE target in EU.

    ton (Mg) CO2 per capita (2014)

    Country … ton CO2 … League Position
    Portugal …… 4.5 ….. 5
    Sweden …… 4.6 ….. 6
    France …….. 5.0 ….. 9
    Spain ………. 5.1 …. 10
    Italy …………. 5.5 …. 11
    UK …………… 6.5 …. 16
    Denmark …… 7.1 … 17
    Ireland ……… 7.4 …. 19
    Poland ……… 7.8 …. 20
    Germany …… 9.3 … 25
    Netherlands .. 9.4 … 26

    Source EDGAR database :

    • Euan Mearns says:

      But still, off with their heads I say! Using nuclear is cheating! More on EU renewables tomorrow and lots more in the pipe.

    • Stuart Brown says:

      Quite agree, Mark – the ERP study Peter Lang has quoted from on here makes the point that the only sure fire way of increasing CO2 emissions is to close down existing nuclear plants. And one reason France uses way more electricity than we do is they use leccy to heat their houses, whereas we had gas to do it with. But the targets are all about increasing renewables – of course, that’s the most important thing, not CO2 emissions!

      Euan – I may well be mis-understanding something here, but you talk about primary energy in your post. The targets are about gross final energy, whatever that is. Are they the same?

  13. Euan Mearns says:

    Stuart, I’d assume that primary energy consumption and gross final energy consumption are the same thing.

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