Renewable energy can be produced from a wide variety of sources including wind, solar, hydro, tidal, geothermal, and biomass. By using more renewables to meet its energy needs, the EU lowers its dependence on imported fossil fuels and makes its energy production more sustainable. The renewable energy industry also drives technological innovation and employment across Europe.
2020 renewable energy targets
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.
A new target for 2030
Renewables will continue to play a key role in helping the EU meet its energy needs beyond 2020. EU countries have already agreed on a new renewable energy target of at least 27% of final energy consumption in the EU as a whole by 2030 as part of the EU's energy and climate goals for 2030.
On 30 November 2016, the Commission published a proposal for a revised Renewable Energy Directive to make the EU a global leader in renewable energy and ensure that the 2030 target is met.
Support schemes for renewables
Public interventions such as support schemes remain necessary to make certain renewable energy technologies competitive. To avoid distorting energy prices and the market however, these schemes should be time-limited and carefully designed. The EU has issued guidance on support schemes to help governments when they design or revise support schemes.
Every two years, the EU publishes a renewable energy progress report.
The 2017 report states that the EU as a whole achieved a 16% share of renewable energy in 2014 and an estimated 16.4% share in 2015. The vast majority of EU countries are well on track to reach their 2020 binding targets for renewable energy.
This report was published in February 2017 alongside the Second State of the Energy Union report.
Under the EU's Renewable Energy Directive, the European Commission must keep a 'transparency platform'. This allows public access to national and Commission documents relating to renewable energy.