Renewable energy is finding a strong niche in the EU power market. In a new report, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission reveals that renewable energy sources represented 62% of the new electricity generation capacity in the EU-27 in 2009, up 5% year-on-year
With an output of 10.2 gigawatts (GW), wind energy generated the biggest share of the new electricity capacity, followed by photovoltaics (21%), biomass (2.1%), hydro (1.4%) and concentrated solar power (0.4%). Gas-fired power plants (24%), coal-fired power stations (8.7%), oil (2.1%), waste incineration (1.6%) and nuclear fission (1.6%) made up the remaining new capacity.
The 'Renewable Energy Snapshots' report says renewables also represented nearly 20% (608 terawatt hours (TWh)) of electricity consumed by Europeans in 2009, in absolute terms. Hydro-electric power tops the list with 11.6% of the total share, followed by wind (4.2%) and biomass (3.5%). As the lowest contributor of the four, solar power contributed just 0.4%.
The JRC notes in its report that the sources expected to generate the biggest annual energy output are gas-fired power stations (28 TWh/year), wind (20 TWh) and photovoltaics (5.6 TWh).
Citing data from the EU Member States, Eurostat, industry associations and research industries, the JRC says that if current growth rates are maintained, renewable energy sources could generate up to 1,400 TWh of power in 2020. This figure would cover around 37.5% of the total electricity consumed in the EU. The JRC notes that this depends on how successful electricity efficiency policies are. By boosting renewables, Europe takes one major step closer to meeting its 20% target for renewable energy generation.
But the report also shows that the EU must address and settle a number of issues if the targets are to be met, including providing ample research and development (R&D) support, as well as adapting the existing power systems to make room for renewable electricity. 'Cost reduction and accelerated implementation will depend on the production volume, and not on time,' the report highlights.
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