Renewables are more than half new EU capacity

According to the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, 62% (17GW) of new electricity generation capacity installed in the EU27 in 2009 came from renewables, of which 60% (10.2 GW) was provided by wind.

In absolute terms, renewables produced 19.9% (608 TWh) of Europe's total 3042 TWh) electricity consumption last year. Hydro power contributed the largest share (11.6%), followed by wind (4.2%), biomass (3.5%), and solar (0.4%).

With regards to the new capacity, 37.1% was wind power, 21% photovoltaics, 2.1% biomass, 1.4% hydro and 0.4% concentrated solar power, whereas the rest was made up of gas fired power stations (24%), coal fired power stations (8.7%), oil (2.1%), waste incineration (1.6%) and nuclear (1.6%).

Not all installed technologies operate continuously 24 hours a day, so the new gas-fired electricity plants which are expected to deliver 28 TWh per year are followed by wind and PV at 20 TWh and 5.6 TWh, respectively.

The report considers that if current growth rates are maintained, 2020 could see up to 1400 TWh of electricity generated from renewable sources, This would account for approximately 35-40% of overall electricity consumption in the EU, depending on the success of community policies on electricity efficiency, and would contribute significantly to the fulfilment of the 20% target for energy generation from renewables.

However, it also advises that some issues need to be resolved if the targets are to be met. Particular areas of focus include ensuring fair access to grids, substantial public R&D support, and the adaptation of current electricity systems to accommodate renewable electricity. The study highlights that cost reduction and accelerated implementation will depend on the production volume and not on time.

It should be noted that with more than 74 GW of total Wind installed capacity in 2009, it has already exceeded the 2010 white paper target of 40 GW by more than 80%. The European Wind Association's new target aims for 230 GW of installed capacity (40 GW offshore) by 2020, capable of providing about 20% of Europe's electricity demand.

If current growth of biomass continues, electricity output from this source could double from 2008 to 2010 (108 TWh to 200 TWh). However, other energy uses such as heat and transport fuels compete for this particular resource, which could potentially hinder the development of bioelectricity. Being storable for use on demand increases its importance as a source of electricity.

Concentrated solar power installed capacity is still relatively small in Europe: 0.430 GW in May 2010, about 0.5% of the total, but is steadily increasing. An estimated 30 GW could be installed by 2020 if the European Solar Industry Initiative ESII is realised. Most CSP projects currently under construction are located in Spain.

Since 2003, the total installed photovoltaic capacity has doubled each year. In 2009 it reached 16 GW, which represents 2% of the overall capacity. The growth will continue, as of 2010, installations of up to 10 GW are expected. Solar photovoltaic has also exceeded the capacity predictions formulated by in the EU white paper on renewable sources of energy.

Technologies such as geothermal, tidal and wave power are still at the R&D stage, so they have not yet been included, but are likely to be introduced to the market within the next decade. As far as hydro generation is concerned, no major increase is expected, as most of the resources are already in use. However, pumped hydro will play an increasingly important role as in a storage capacity for the other renewable energy resources.

Author
Tom Shelley

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