Energy Atlas: Figures and facts about renewables in Europe
The European Energy Atlas 2018 is published at a time when the EU Member States are discussing their energy and climate strategy until 2030 – the so-called Clean Energy Package. These goals and regulations will shape Europe’s energy and climate policy for the decades to come. They will decide if we act efficiently on fighting climate change and limit the global rise in temperature to 2 degrees Celsius.
Are these measures currently being negotiated in Europe enough to achieve this, however? Although the Clean Energy Package is setting some crucial signals for further development of the European energy transition the real potential of energy efficiency and renewables is not sufficiently exploited. The goals on the table are not ambitious enough and are endangering the energy successes of the past years. The energy transition is happening differently among the EU Member States. Yet it is clear: the various national energy transitions will only succeed if they form part of an ambitious common European project!
The European Energy Atlas shows a clear alternative: It not only provides a compass on the different energy discussions in different Member States but also reveals how a Europeanization of the energy transition will be the more efficient and cost-effective option for all Europeans.
Table of contents
- TWELVE BRIEF LESSONS
ON EUROPE’S ENERGY
FROM COAL TO CLIMATE
In the EU, an Energy Union is emerging from a bewildering array of packages, policies, projects and proposals. They map the shift from concern over how energy markets function to efforts to promote renewables and curb greenhouse gas emissions.
LOOKING TO BE LEADER
Europe is making progress towards its energy transition at a rate few imagined ten years ago. There is still a long way to go, but the continent is now in a position to become the global leader in green energy. It needs to make the right policy choices today to seize this opportunity.
MAKING PROGRESS, MORE WORK NEEDED
Renewables have moved from being a sideshow to the main act in Europe’s energy theatre. Government support has been key to this – but renewables are increasingly able to stand on their own.
MANY DROPS MAKE A RIVER
Conventional energy comes from a few large, powerful firms. But for renewable energy sources, it makes sense for the generation capacity to be owned by individuals and communities. Policies that encourage this create local support for the development of renewable infrastructure instead of opposition.
TESTBEDS FOR ENERGY INNOVATION
Changing national laws and policies is cumbersome, time-consuming and risky: what if the law or policy proves to be a dud? Cities, on the other hand, can be a hotbed of innovation. They are big enough to try out new ideas on a large scale, but small enough to brush them aside if they do not work out – and the best ideas can be scaled up to the national level.
- ENERGY POVERTY
WAITING IN THE COLD AND DARK
Imagine living in a household without adequate heating, electricity or hot water. Such conditions may be familiar in the developing world, but they are surprisingly common in the EU too. Renewable energy is part of the solution to a disturbing problem.
- LINKING SECTORS
POWER, TRANSPORT, HEAT UNITED
Electricity is only one part of the renewables picture. Heating, cooling and transport consume huge amounts of fossil fuels. Converting them to renewable energy poses challenges, but also offers solutions to the problem of variable power generation from solar and wind sources.
The switch to renewables is not just a matter of covering a few acres with solar panels, erecting wind turbines, and then plugging in. Electricity grids must be carefully managed to precisely balance the demand for power with its supply. That is no easy task.
ON THE ROAD TO A CLEANER FUTURE
Commuters stuck for hours in fume-filled traffic jams epitomize the urgent need for cleaner, more efficient transport systems. Devising a rational transport policy must combine new technologies with proven approaches.
- HEATING AND COOLING
TO A CERTAIN DEGREE
Much of the time, the weather in Europe is either too cold or too hot for comfort. Heating and cooling buildings consumes a huge amount of energy. New technologies and better policies could increase efficiency and cut both costs and greenhouse gas emissions.
- ENERGY EFFICIENCY
GETTING MORE FROM LESS
Draughty, poorly insulated buildings, outdated factory equipment, home appliances that slurp power instead of sipping it. Much of the energy we use is wasted. European Union policy directives are trying to change this.
TAKING A QUICK BYTE
The spread of renewable energy means a switch from a few large power plants to many smaller sources. But how can millions of solar panels and wind turbines be integrated into a reliable system that balances out supply and demand? Digitalization provides the answer.
- EUROPEAN UNION
MORE AMBIVALENT THAN AMBITIOUS
After a stuttering start, the European Union’s energy sector is now undergoing a profound transformation. Instead of losing steam, the European Commission and the governments of member states must now set ambitious targets, and design policies that enable the continent to reach them.
WHERE COAL IS STILL KING OF THE HILL
After some initial progress towards renewable power, Poland is now treading water. A change in government has led to backtracking – this means the country will miss even its modest goals for clean power.
- CZECH REPUBLIC
Strongly embedded coal and nuclear power industries, coupled with a poorly designed support scheme for renewables and political uncertainty – the Czech Republic faces an uphill battle in the shift to renewables.
CLOUDS WHERE THE SUN SHOULD SHINE
Plentiful sunshine and breezy seas and mountains: Greece has strong potential for renewable energy. But the country’s debt problems have stalled progress towards a cleaner future.
RICH IN SUN, POOR IN POLITICS
Sun-drenched and zephyr-kissed, Spain occupies a corner of Europe that is ideal for solar and wind power. After an initial surge of investment in renewables, the flaws of the government’s energy policy became evident, and the authorities slammed the brakes on investment. There are signs that they may now be relenting.
ADDICTED TO ATOMS
France has long relied heavily on nuclear power. Weaning itself off this dependency and switching to renewables is proving tricky. Questions include how to overcome bureaucratic hurdles and how quickly to phase out the country’s nuclear plants.
TURNING AROUND, BUT NOT YET ON COURSE
Germany’s energy transition includes phasing out nuclear power, reducing the use of fossil fuels, and massive investment in renewables. That is in itself a big challenge, but there is more to come: the country also needs to convert its heating, cooling and transportation sectors to renewable energy.
POWER TO ALL OUR FRIENDS: THE INCONSISTENCY OF POLICIES
The tier of countries to the east and south of the European Union are a source of energy imports as well as a potential source of instability. The EU neighbourhood policy wants to contribute to carbon emission reduction. But large-scale investments in new pipelines undermine these goals.
AUTHORS AND SOURCES FOR DATA AND GRAPHICS