How COVID Helped EU Countries Meet Their Renewable Energy Targets

11 EU countries were able to meet their renewable energy goals in 2020 due to the slowing down of economic activity caused by COVID-19.

The EU’s Renewable Energy Directive, adopted in 2009 as part of the 20-20-20 list of 2020 energy and climate change goals, set a target of a 20% share for renewable energy sources (RES) in final energy consumption for the EU. Member States were given individual targets.

Article 27 of the Governance Regulation (2018/1999) states that Member States were required to report to the European Commission on their achievement of RED targets and RES shares in the electricity, heating and cooling, and transport sectors by 2020.

Guidehouse analyzed Member States throughout Europe that included their renewable energy sources. They also looked at the policies and transfers each country had implemented, and we added our own analysis to better understand the European Commission’s State of the Energy Union Report.

Let’s take a closer look at the results

In 2020, all Member States except France met or exceeded the Renewable Energy Target, which was an overall European Union share of 22.1%.

Compared to 2019, the RES share in the EU increased considerably by 2.2 percentage points. France missed their national RES target in 2020 by 3.9 percentage points, only reaching 19.1% RES share in final energy consumption.

The report on RES production appears positive at first, but other factors contributed to the success.

Renewable Energy - Covid

Figure: Achieved 2020 RES share compared to 2020 RES target (RES Directive). Source: Eurostat SHARES; RES Directive. The numbers reflect statistical transfer use.

Many member states have to purchase transfers of statistical accounts in order to meet their 2020 RES target

Six Member States, including Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, and Slovenia have implemented national measures to promote renewable energy. Yet their efforts don’t seem enough to hit their binding 2020 targets for renewable sources – in each of those countries.

To help reach their targets in 2020, these countries used statistical transfers – a cooperation mechanism that allows countries that lag on their goals to buy surplus energy from those who are meeting them.

As RES (renewable energy sources) are increasing in popularity, more and more European Union countries are participating. The increasing use of statistical transfers is an indication that EU cooperation is becoming more popular.

The RES carries a number of risks, such as the gap between countries with high RES shares and those that do not achieving their targets domestically will only increase in the coming years.

Final energy consumption in the EU was reduced by 8% in 2020, with COVID.

The year 2020 saw the start of the COVID pandemic, which spread across the world very rapidly. As the energy sector is highly dependent on fossil fuels, there was a dramatic decline in demand for energy. Lockdowns and restrictions led to a decrease in the usage of energy in all Member States.

In 2020, the total gross final consumption of energy in the EU dropped by 8% compared to 2019 – the lowest recorded levels since 1990.

In addition to the impact of weather and energy efficiency policies, other factors, such as decreasing gas prices and changing consumer preferences, may have led to lower GFC in 2020.

When a statewide lockdown was issued, the RES market was surprisingly unaffected. This is because overall energy demand across the Member States was at an all-time low. This, combined with the pre-existing low levels of RES capacity and generation, means that if you look at renewable energy’s share of total RES capacity and generation in pre-pandemic times, it appears to have gone up during the period of these lockdowns.

The COVID pandemic had a massive impact on the 2020 RES target achievement

Eleven countries would not have been able to meet their 2020 RES targets without transfers or demand reduction: Belgium, Ireland, Spain, France, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal and Slovenia.

All the Member States would have been able to meet the 2020 RES target if their energy consumption was the same as in 2019.

This is also the case for the EU as a whole, which would have reached 20.6% RES share instead of the actual 22.1% achieved in 2020.

A few countries have made no progress in expanding RES in 2020.

On top of that, the analysis reveals that in some countries, the 2020 counterfactual RES share would have even been significantly lower than the 2019 actual RES share if total energy consumption in 2020 had remained at the same level as in 2019.

In Finland, Slovakia, Romania, Austria, and Latvia, the RES share would have been lower. In France, Italy and Slovenia however, the RES share would have been the same as it’s been this year.

The results indicate that many Member States hardly made any significant progress in expanding RES capacity and generation in 2020.

If enough progress isn’t made in expanding renewables by 2030, we risk missing the target.

Looking ahead, these findings also have implications for the achievement of the EU 2030 RES target trajectory. Under the Fit for 55 packages, the EU increased the goal of RES share in final energy consumption by 2030 from 32% to 40%.

The recent EU Commission proposal has the plan to increase the 2030 RES target to 45% of total final energy consumption by 2030.

The sluggish growth in demand for energy in 2021 and 2022 will make it difficult to meet the 2030 energy sustainability targets, even after 2020 reaches its targets.

To achieve an efficient and fair energy transition, the EU as a whole will need to take action across all energy sectors, deploying renewables and pursuing clean technologies.

Source: Euractiv 

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