Renewable energy directive

The original renewable energy directive (2009/28/EC) establishes an overall policy for the production and promotion of energy from renewable sources in the EU. It requires the EU to fulfil at least 20% of its total energy needs with renewables by 2020 – to be achieved through the attainment of individual national targets. All EU countries must also ensure that at least 10% of their transport fuels come from renewable sources by 2020.

In December 2018, the revised renewable energy directive 2018/2001/EU entered into force, as part of the Clean energy for all Europeans package, aimed at keeping the EU a global leader in renewables and, more broadly, helping the EU to meet its emissions reduction commitments under the Paris Agreement. 

The new directive establishes a new binding renewable energy target for the EU for 2030 of at least 32%, with a clause for a possible upwards revision by 2023.

Under the new Governance regulation, which is also part of the Clean energy for all Europeans package, EU countries are required to draft 10-year National Energy & Climate Plans (NECPs) for 2021-2030, outlining how they will meet the new 2030 targets for renewable energy and for energy efficiency. Member States needed to submit a draft NECP by 31 December 2018 and should be ready to submit the final plans to the European Commission by 31 December 2019.

Most of the other new elements in the new directive need to be transposed into national law by Member States by 30 June 2021.   

National action plans and progress reports

The Directive 2009/28/EC specifies national renewable energy targets for 2020 for each country, taking into account its starting point and overall potential for renewables. These targets range from a low of 10% in Malta to a high of 49% in Sweden.

EU countries set out how they plan to meet these 2020 targets and the general course of their renewable energy policy in national renewable energy action plans.

Progress towards national targets is measured every two years when EU countries publish national renewable energy progress reports.

Cooperation mechanisms

The Directive 2009/28/EC promotes cooperation amongst EU countries (and with countries outside the EU) to help them meet their renewable energy targets.  The cooperation mechanisms can take the form of:

  • statistical transfers of renewable energy
  • joint renewable energy projects
  • joint renewable energy support schemes

Sustainable biofuels

Biofuels and bioliquids are instrumental in helping EU countries meet their 10% renewables target in transport. The Renewable Energy Directive sets out biofuels sustainability criteria for all biofuels produced or consumed in the EU to ensure that they are produced in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner.

Companies can show they comply with the sustainability criteria through national systems or so-called voluntary schemes recognised by the European Commission.



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