Global Reach of Renewable Energy

Use across the globe

We have put together a map of the world showing electricity generated from renewable energy sources, grouped by technology -with totals and share in electricity consumption. Solar, wave and tidal energy are grouped together, as the contribution of tidal and wave is negligible. It shows vividly that hydro is the only source that is truly globally distributed, though closely followed by wind. Geothermal, solar and marine energy are very much concentrated on a limited number of countries.

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Renewable Energy in the EU

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In its ambition to reduce the effects of climate change and establish a common energy policy, the EU has set targets for the share in renewable energy in each member state.

Across the EU, the target is to have 20% of final energy consumption to come from renewables by 2020.

The individual members' targets were negotiated based on their share of renewables in 2006. Once set, it is up to the individual states to achieve those targets.

Those targets are aggressive, and will spurn a lot of activity. To get a sense of what those percentage targets mean in practice, we calculated how much wind capacity states would have to built to make up for the gap. That would be around a 100GW for the UK alone by 2020. With a typical wind turbine capacity of 2MW, this would equate to 50,000 turbines! Of course, wind energy is not the only renewable source. Nevertheless this crude calculation highlights the scale of the challenge for some countries.

In addition, individual states have announced targets for the share of renewables in the electricity generation. For instance, Germany has announced a 30% target to be hit by 2020.

Moreover, further targets have been set for 2050, though their credibility is doubtful if the 2020 targets cannot be reached.

Renewable Energy Share in the EU-27

Within the EU's 27 member states, electricity only accounts for around 20% of final energy consumption. Interestingly, the share of renewables in electricity generation in the EU (15%) is higher than in the final consumption (9.2%) or primary energy (7.7%). Why? It is easier to use renewable energy technologies in generating electricity than in transport or for heating. However, given the relatively small proportion of electricity in the oveall energy use, increasing the share of renewa bles in the final energy consumption can not be achieved by only building renewable power stations.

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Among primary renewable sources, biomass is by far the most prominent. However, in electricity, the renewables are dominated by hydro, followed by wind. The dominance of hydro among renewables in electricity generation is largely similar in countires outside the EU. However, the share of hydro will decrease over time, as other technologies, especially in wind energy, mature.

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