None of the European Union renewables objectives reached

EurObserv’ER has released its ninth annual overview report entitled “The State of Renewable Energies in Europe 2009”, in which it estimates that for the year 2008 the renewable energy share in total primary energy consumption rose 0.5% with respect to 2007 (from 7.7% to 8.2%) and the renewable energy share in total electricity consumption increased by 1.1% (from 15.3% in 2007 to 16.4% in 2008).

“The State of Renewable Energies in Europe” is a synthesis of the technology Barometers published by EurObserv’ER during 2009 (with data up to and including 2008), and gives detailed capacity and energy performance data for all 27 Member States of the European Union (for wind power, photovoltaics, solar thermal energy and solar thermal electricity, small hydropower, geothermal energy, ground source heat pumps, biogas, biofuels, municipal solid waste, solid biomass and ocean energy).

As the European Union enters the last year in the run-up to the deadline set by the 1997 White Paper, the 2001 Renewable Electricity Directive and the 2003 Biofuels Directive for the end of 2010, the report opens with a stark reminder from Jean-Louis Bal, Director of Sustainable Production and Energy of one of the reports sponsors, the French Environment and Energy Management Agency. of the work that lies ahead, despite the positive figures described above.

“None of the three European objectives will be reached – neither the White Paper’s 12% share of primary energy, nor the 21% share of electricity consumption and even less still the 5.75% biofuel share,” says Bal. “The EU Member States have more than an uphill task ahead of them if they are to achieve their individual goals.”

Meanwhile, however, , EurObserv’ER President, Alain Liébard, is more upbeat in his opening statement: “The decade we are ushering in looks promising! The failure of Copenhagen need not be taken as the yardstick for measuring the fight against global warming and there is every hope that negotiations will finally bear fruit in Bonn or Rio. Accordingly we maintain that renewable energies should still be considered as first-rate technologies for clean, carbon-free production”.

Liébard goes on to highlight that the European renewables sector has created 660,000 direct and indirect jobs at 660,000 and has a turnover of €91 billion.

Wind to top 86 GW in 2010

By energy-type, the report summarises that at the end of 2008, European wind power capacity had risen to 65,247 MW, which is a 15.1% increase on 2007, while its authors conclude that “The maturity of the European market has been borne out as it is now sufficiently diversified and balanced to cushion the slow-down of its two major players, Spain which faltered badly and Germany, whose market stagnated in 2008.”

While the authors warn that it is hard to make medium-term forecasts in the current context, they venture that the European wind market could grow by about 15% per annum, raising EU capacity to about 86,400 MW in 2010.

European PV capacity up 159%

Growth has been spectacular in the photovoltaic solar sector. In 2008, European Union was the main powerhouse in the world market with over 80% of the world’s installed capacity. The European Union more than doubled its 2007 installation level, which according to preliminary estimates, rose from 1,833.1 MWp to 4,747 MWp (up 159%).

The spectacular growth of the Spanish market, together with the steady growth of the German market took EU capacity past the 10,000 MWp threshold in 2008. But the report's authors expect somewhat less growth in 2009, primarily because of the Spanish government’s decision to limit annual installed capacity with a drop of at least 2,000 MWp anticipated for 2009.

Solar thermal: "spectacular year"

EurObserv’ER considers that “2008 will go down on record as an excellent year for the solar thermal market”. The market grew by 51.5% over 2007 with over 4.5 million square metres installed (equating to 3,172 MWth). However, it warns that 2009 will likely be a much quieter year and the market is expected to contract in 2009, mainly because of the slump in the Spanish market and German markets.

“Manufacturers will have to put up with 2009 and bide their time before taking advantage of the expected solar market recovery in 2010,” says the report’s authors, who estimate that, given the decommissioning of previous years, the European collector base in operation will come to 38 million square metres by the end of 2010.

Similar growth in other renewables

The EurObserv’ER shows growth in all other renewables, although it warns that the increase in biofuel consumption of 31.4% “seems relatively slow when compared with previous performances of 45.7% growth between 2006 and 2007 and 70.9% between 2005 and 2006”.

The authors are happy with the performance of the solar thermal electric sector, however, which they consider has “has a promising future ahead of it.” They report that 679 MW were installed worldwide during 2008 and see this rising as technological advances, particularly in thermal storage, boost plant performance and drive down costs.

Regarding the different ocean energies – tides, swells, currents, osmotic pressure (the salinity differential between fresh- and sea water) and deep water thermal gradients – the EurObserv’ER study emphasises that they represent “a gigantic reservoir of electricity whose potential annual production could run to 120,000 TWh”.

While the authors say that interest is growing in this sub-sector, they warn that it is the least mature sector, and has to overcome the development difficulties associated with inshore installation (as it requires the presence of both fresh and salt water together).

Looking forward

Interestingly, according to EurObserv’ER, Italy, with an additional 2.6 Mtoe over 2007, was the main contributor to the increase in renewable primary energy consumption in the European Union in 2008.

The report’s authors show that renewable energies have accounted for 8.2% of primary energy consumption in 2008 (7.7% in 2007), with two-thirds of renewable energy consumed in the European Union coming from biomass sources.

Finally, with 2010 being a “pivotal year” for renewables in Europe as Members States present their National Action Plans, EurObserv’ER concludes that the current economic crisis “should not dramatically hold up the development of the renewable sectors, and the slowdown expected in certain sectors should be short-lived,” adding that the prospects for 2010 are “much more promising”, especially as the previous White Paper and directives give way to the new Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/CE) on promoting renewably-sourced energy production.

“The State of Renewable Energies in Europe” includes a chapter on socio-economic indicators (employment, turnover) for most technologies in a selection of Member States, and concludes with seven country case studies, where specific regions are particularly strong in renewable energy industry: this regards regions in Italy, Luxembourg, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Finland, Sweden and Slovakia.

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