Renewable energy prospects for the European Union: Preview for Policy Makers

January 2018

For more than two decades, the European Union (EU) has been at the forefront of global renewable energy deployment. This preview for policy makers outlines the EU’s potential to meet increasingly ambitious renewable energy targets.

The forthcoming REmap study by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), prepared in co-operation with the European Commission, aims to identify cost-effective renewable energy options for all EU Member States, spanning a wide range of sectors and technologies.

  • The EU could double the renewable share in its energy mix, cost effectively, from 17% in 2015 to 34% in 2030.
  • All EU countries have cost-effective potential to use more renewables.
  • Renewables are vital for long-term decarbonisation of the EU energy system.
  • The European electricity sector can accommodate large shares of solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind power generation.
  • Heating and cooling solutions account for more than one third of the EU’s untapped renewable energy potential.
  • All renewable transport options; including both electric vehicles and biofuels; are needed to realise long-term EU decarbonisation objectives.
  • Biomass will remain a key renewable energy source beyond 2030.

The adoption of long-term targets and supporting policy measures has resulted in strong growth in renewable energy consumption, from a 9% share in 2005 to 16.7% in 2015. This has put the EU is on track to meet its 20% target established for 2020. IRENA’s findings suggest, further, that the EU could meet – and potentially exceed – a proposed 27% renewable energy target for 2030.

A new set of energy and climate targets adopted by the European Council in 2014 included a minimum target of 27% renewables in EU energy consumption by 2030. A 2015 EU framework strategy called for the EU to become “the world leader in renewable energy”. The European Commission’s “Clean Energy for All Europeans” package proposed a regulatory framework to support renewable energy deployment over the crucial 2020–2030 period,

The study forms part of IRENA’s global REmap analysis, which sets out a practical roadmap for doubling renewables in the global energy mix.