The production of clean energy in Europe has greatly increased in the past thirteen years. In 2004 the European Union (EU) released the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), requiring twenty percent of the energy produced in the EU to come from renewable sources by 2020. The RED also requires that 10 percent of the fuels used in transportation come from renewable sources. In 2016, the EU released a revised RED, increasing the target for total energy production from renewable sources to 27 percent by 2030. The goals of these policies are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to decrease the dependence on imported foreign energy sources like fossil fuels (source).
The term “renewable energy” encompasses many energy sources including: biofuels and biomass, hydroelectric, wind, solar, geothermal, and ocean based energy sources. The type of energy used depends on the application. In addition, the types of renewable energy sources available to each European country are be different. Therefore, a unique action plan exists for each country to meet the RED targets.
The use of biofuels in renewable energy production has grown considerably since the RED was released. Biofuels are derived from biomass, which is organic material such as trees, plants, agricultural waste, and urban waste. Biofuels are used for heating, electricity production, and as transportation fuels. The goals of using biofuels are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote biodiversity, and to create jobs in the energy sector.
The RED set forth criteria for the use of biofuels. The biofuels must yield a greenhouse gas emission savings of 35 percent compared to fossil fuels. The requirement was increased to 50 percent in 2017 and will be increased to 60 percent in 2018. It is also required that the area used for biomass production cannot be land which has high carbon stock or biodiversity, such as a forest (source)..
Growth in renewable energy
The EU releases a progress report every 2 years. In the 2017 it was reported that the overall energy production in the EU came from 16 percent renewable sources in 2014 and 16.7 percent in 2015. Most countries are expected to reach their 2020 goal of twenty percent. Overall, renewable energy production increased from 8.5 percent in 2004 to 16.7 percent in 2015.
The 2017 report breaks down the production of energy from clean sources. Wood and solid biomass account for 44 percent of the total renewable energy. The other sources are hydroelectric at 14.4 percent, wind at 12.7 percent, solar at 6.4 percent, and geothermal at 3.2 percent. Some countries also utilized tide and ocean based energy.
The report also states that hydroelectric and wind power account for the majority of electricity production, but that there has been growth in solar and solid biofuel electricity usage. In transportation renewable sources include biofuels, hydrogen, and electricity produced from green sources. Renewable energy sources for transportation have grown from 1.6 percent in 2004 to 6.7 percent in 2015 (source).