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Energy from renewable sources

From Statistics Explained

Data from July 2013. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: August 2014.

This article presents a detailed statistical overview of the production and consumption of energy from renewable sources in the European Union (EU). It is based on data compiled in accordance with accounting rules set down in the 'Renewable Energy Directive' 2009/28/EC on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources.

Renewable energy in the EU has grown strongly in recent years. This has been prompted by the 2009 Directive, in particular the legally binding targets for renewable energy. While the EU as a whole is on course to meet its 2020 targets, some Member States need to make additional efforts to meet their national targets.

Figure 1: Share of energy from renewable sources in gross final consumption of energy, EU-28, 2004-2011
Source: (nrg_ind_335a)
Figure 2: Primary production of energy from renewable sources, EU-28, 1990-2011
Source: Eurostat (nrg_1071a) (nrg_1072a) (nrg_1073a)
Figure 3: Gross electricity generation from renewable sources, EU-28, 1990-2011
Source: Eurostat (nrg_105a)
Figure 4: Electricity generation capacity, EU-28, 1990-2011
Source: Eurostat (nrg_113a)
Figure 5: Primary production of liquid biofuels, EU-28, 1990-2011
Source: Eurostat (nrg_1073a)
Figure 6: Gross inland consumption of renewables, EU-28, 1990-2011
Source: Eurostat (nrg_1071a) (nrg_1072a) (nrg_1073a)
Figure 7: Renewable energy available for final consumption, EU-28, 1990-2011
Source: Eurostat Energy (nrg)
Table 1: Share of energy from renewable sources in gross final consumption of energy
Source: Eurostat (SHARES 2011) (nrg_ind_335a)
Table 2: Share of electricity from renewable sources in gross electricity consumption
Source: Eurostat (SHARES 2011) (nrg_ind_335a)
Table 3: Share of renewable energy sources in heating and cooling
Source: Eurostat (SHARES 2011) (nrg_ind_335a)
Table 4: Share of renewable energy sources in transport
Source: Eurostat (SHARES 2011) (nrg_ind_335a)
Figure 8: Share of energy from renewable sources in gross final consumption of energy, 2011, %
Source: Eurostat for EU-28, IEA for other countries
Table 5: Share of energy from renewable sources in gross final consumption of energy, 2011
Source: Eurostat for EU-28, IEA for other countries

Main statistical findings

After a period up to 2010 during which renewables were growing strongly, the combined effect of warm weather, slower progress by Member States in implementing the Renewable Energy Directive and Europe’s faltering economic situation led to a decrease in the use of renewable energy in 2011. However, the share of renewable sources in gross final consumption of energy did increase, since the consumption of fossil fuel energy fell more than that of renewables. It is the transport sector’s share of renewables that has been the most affected by problems at national level in implementing the Directive.

Primary production of energy from renewable sources

Primary production of renewable energies is on a long-term increasing trend. It more than doubled between 1990 and 2011, increasing by 130 % with an average annual growth rate of 4.1 %. In 2011, the primary production of renewables declined by 2.8 %; this was mainly due to the annual variation in hydropower production. This is only the second decrease recorded since 1990 — the first in 2002 (-2.4 %) was also a consequence of hydropower variation. The Renewable Energy Directive requires that — for accounting purposes — hydropower and wind power production is normalised for annual variations. Primary production of renewable energies is shown in Figure 2 (figures for electricity production are not normalised, as provided for under the Directive).

Electricity generation from renewable sources

In 2011, gross electricity generation from renewables decreased by 0.3 % compared with 2010. However, the picture varies according to the different sources: a 17 % decrease in hydropower generation was compensated by increases in other sources, in particular solar (+99 %) and wind (+20 %). Between 1990 and 2011, total electricity generation from renewables increased by 119 % and by 2011, renewable electricity generation accounted for 21 % of total gross electricity generation[1].

Hydropower plants generate by far the largest share of electricity from renewable energy sources. Electricity generation from hydropower increased by 7 % between 1990 and 2011, even while its share of total renewable electricity generation shrank from 94 % to 46 % over the same period. This is due to the more rapid expansion of electricity generation from other renewable sources. Wind power generation more than doubled over the period 2005-2011: since 2000, it has been the second largest contributor to renewable electricity, replacing wood and other solid biomass, which had held that position since 1990. Solar power electricity generation has increased rapidly in recent years and in 2011 accounted for 7 % of all renewable electricity. Solid renewables (wood, other solid biomass, renewable wastes) are also used in conventional thermal generation power plants: their share grew from 4 % in 1990 to 14 % in 2011. Bioliquids and biogas, which were negligible in 1990, reached 6 % in 2011. Electricity generation from renewable sources is shown in Figure 3 (in this figure electricity production is not normalised in the area chart but the dashed line shows the total normalised electricity generation).

Installed capacity for renewable electricity generation

The available capacity of renewable electricity generation has increased significantly over the last 20 years. Wind power capacity had already begun to increase rapidly in the late 1990s and from 2005 there was a boom in solar generation capacity. Additional capacity increases for other renewables were much more modest than for these two. Solar and wind generation are intermittent energy sources: their utilisation rate is much lower than for those renewables used in conventional thermal power stations (as well as compared with fossil fuels and nuclear power). Pumped-storage hydropower plants can be reliably used to deal with surplus electricity generation from intermittent sources. The capacity of pumped-storage hydropower plants did not increase at the same rate as solar and wind. Installed capacity for renewable sources, nuclear power and pumped-storage hydropower is shown in Figure 4. To put into perspective electricity generation capacities from renewable sources — as part of total electricity generation in the EU — the capacity of fossil fuel plants in 2011 was nearly 460 GW.

Production of liquid biofuels in the EU

Production of liquid biofuels increased significantly from almost nothing in 1990. There were rapid increases — especially after 2002 — producing an average annual growth rate between 2000 and 2010 of 34 %. However, production decreased in 2011 by 14 % compared with 2010. Production of liquid biofuels is shown in Figure 5.

Imports and exports of renewables

Imports and exports of renewable energy products are very difficult to analyse. It is even more difficult to provide figures corresponding to import dependency that would be comparable with fossil fuels (coal, crude oil, natural gas). The major obstacle for detailed import/export analysis is that primary feedstocks for solid, liquid and gaseous biofuels often compete for other non-energy uses. For example, wood can be used as material for furniture production and as building material on construction sites. Energy statistics track only quantities of renewable products for energy purposes; stocks of renewable products for non-energy purposes are not part of energy balances.

Another complication arises because of missing data on feedstock input for the transformation sector — for example, the raw materials destined for biorefineries to produce biofuels. These data on feedstock input are out of the scope of energy statistics. Energy balances place solid, liquid and gaseous biofuels produced in the EU in the category of ‘primary production’; this is in contrast to production of fossil-based secondary fuels, which are categorised as ‘transformation output’ (for example, the ‘primary production’ of motor gasoline or automotive diesel is zero in EU energy balance sheets).

Trade in liquid biofuels that can be blended with — or used as a substitute for — gasoline or diesel (for example, ethanol in E85 for use in flex-fuel vehicles) serves as an illustration. Trade volumes of liquid biofuels (blended part within mineral fuel plus pure biofuels) shipped between EU Member States, and internationally, are increasing. In 2011, EU-28 net imports of liquid biofuels accounted for 26 % of their gross domestic consumption. For their part, net imports of biodiesel and biogasoline stood at 24 % and 41 % of consumption, respectively. (These figures include the blended part within mineral fuels and all pure biofuels.)

Compared with 2011, net imports of biogasolines and biodiesels have doubled. This trend indicates that import dependency for liquid biofuels could become a genuine concern in the longer term, as is already the case for fossil fuels today.

Detail data for liquid biofuels are available in energy database: (nrg_1073a).

Gross inland consumption of renewables

Gross inland consumption of renewables is closely related to primary production of renewables. The only noticeable variation is down to imports and exports: primarily because of net imports of liquid biofuels, gross inland consumption of all renewables is 4 % higher than primary production. Gross inland consumption of renewables decreased by 2 % in 2011 compared with 2010. Wood and other solid biomass continues to be the largest contributor to the mix of renewable energy sources. Hydropower and wood accounted for 91 % in 1990. However, the rate of increase since then has been much slower than for other sources notwithstanding that wood more than doubled between by 2011. Consequently, their share decreased to 64 % in 2011. Gross inland consumption of renewable energies is shown in Figure 6 (electricity production is not normalised).

Renewable energy available for final consumption

Renewable energy available for final consumption (Figure 7) tends to rise and fall in line with changes in gross inland energy consumption from renewable sources. Rapid expansion of certain technologies caused the share of energy from solid renewables (including wood and renewable waste) to decrease from 60 % in 1990 to 43 % in 2011. However, in absolute terms it increased by 57 % during this period. Renewable energy available for final consumption decreased by 1.2 % in 2011 compared with 2010. This decrease is due not only to reduced performance of hydropower plants, but also to decreases for some other renewable sources — in all likelihood because of the financial and economic crisis in Europe.

Share of energy from renewable sources in gross final consumption of energy

In the EU-28, the share of energy from renewable sources in gross final energy consumption increased from 8.1 % in 2004 to 13.0 % in 2010. This is evidence of a steady progress towards the Europe 2020 target of 20 %. As some countries have not yet fully implemented all provisions of the Renewable Energy Directive, some biofuels and bioliquids are not counted as compliant (sustainable) in 2011. Some countries have also not yet improved their national statistical system to fully account for all renewable energy sources (for example, heat pumps). Consequently, the 2011 share is estimated to be lower by around 0.5 %. The increased share between 2010 and 2011 is not due to increased use of renewables but rather because of a decline in use of fossil energies (oil products and natural gas). Allowing for the 2020 targets of the Energy Efficiency Directive (2012/27/EU), further decreases in the EU’s energy consumption should be expected up to 2020.

No Member State has yet reported any arrangements for the statistical transfer of a specified amount of energy from renewable sources, nor has any Member State reported any joint projects relating to the production of electricity, heating or cooling from renewable energy sources. The latest data for 2005 shows only a very small variation with respect to data available during the preparation and adoption of the Directive in 2007-2008. Changes are due to revisions in data sets submitted by Member States in response to annual energy questionnaires. Comparing the average of 2011-12 to the indicative trajectory set out in the Renewable Energy Directive, it can be seen that seven countries in 2011 are below the first indicative trajectory values, while all other countries were above them.

Table 1 presents data for all Member States and also the values of the indicative trajectory.

The renewable share in Estonia in 2011 was already above its 2020 target. France, Malta, Netherlands and the UK were furthest from their 2020 target in 2011— roughly 10 percentage points. The highest share was observed in Sweden, even though its share decreased by 1 percentage point compared with 2011. The lowest share in 2011 was observed in Malta, but account needs to be taken of some statistical problems with the reporting of consumption of liquid biofuels.

Share of energy from renewable sources: electricity

In 2011, electricity generation from renewable sources, with necessary adjustments for wind power and hydropower, contributed 21.8 % to total EU-28 electricity generation. There is a huge variation between countries in Europe: for Malta the level is negligible (0.1 %), while for Norway it is 104.8 %. In the EU-28, the highest share is recorded in Austria (66.1 %), followed by Sweden (59.6 %). The share of electricity from renewable sources in gross electricity consumption is presented in Table 2.

Share of energy from renewable sources: heating and cooling

In 2011, renewable energy accounted for 15.1 % of total energy use for heating and cooling in the EU-28. This is a significant increase from 9.6 % in 2004. Increases in industrial sectors, services and residential use (building sector) contributed to this growth. Aerothermal, geothermal and hydrothermal heat energy captured by heat pumps should be taken into account and are included to the extent reported by Member States. The share of energy from renewable sources in heating and cooling is presented in Table 3.

Share of energy from renewable sources: transport

For all countries, there is a common 2020 target of 10 % for the share of renewable energy in the transport sector. The Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/EC stipulates that only biofuels and bioliquids that fulfil sustainability criteria should be included. Statistical systems in some countries have yet to be updated to take this entirely into account. While the share of renewable energy as a whole increased between 2010 and 2011, its share in transport decreased during this period. This can be attributed in part to the total absence of compliant biofuels reported by Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Cyprus, Finland, France and Slovakia; these countries did report some biofuel use, but none of it compliant in 2011. In addition, Denmark, Estonia and Malta reported no biofuels use whatsoever though this is likely to be a statistical or administrative error rather than actual reality. Portugal reported only a very small share of compliant biofuels use. Belgium made no data submission in 2011 with the result that no biofuels are counted as compliant.

If all compliant and non-compliant biofuels are taken into account, the share of renewable energies in transport in 2011 reaches 5 %. The share of energy from renewable sources in transport is presented in Table 4.

Share of energy from renewable sources: OECD-EU comparison

Energy data collection is harmonised on an international level in the joint OECD/IEA — European Commission/EurostatUNECE questionnaires. This enables some comparison of the share of energy from renewable sources between EU Member States and OECD/IEA countries. However, as not all information is available, certain additional assumptions are made in this comparison: all biofuels and bioliquids are counted towards the renewable share and without using multipliers; heat pumps are not counted: all pumped hydropower is assumed to be pure pumped hydropower and mixed hydropower is assumed to be zero; electricity in road transport is counted without any multiplier. This facilitates a harmonised comparison of the EU-28 aggregate with other OECD countries; however, in this comparison, EU-28 values are not equivalent to the values presented earlier in this article. The comparison of the EU-28 with other OECD countries and Russia is presented in Table 5 and Figure 8.

Data sources and availability

Data from the energy balance sheets have been used for all calculations. The most recent data available are for the reference year 2011. Data are available for all EU Member States. In general, data are complete, recent and reliably comparable across countries. This results in a high degree of accuracy and accountability of EU aggregate figures.


Gross inland energy consumption represents the total quantity of energy resources used for all purposes.

Energy available for final consumption represents the total quantity of energy resources available to consumers (private, commercial and industrial). It excludes energy used in transformation processes (for example electricity power plants, fuel refineries, blast furnaces). It also includes energy products that might be used for non-energy purposes (for example in chemical processes).

Gross final consumption of energy is defined in the Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/EC as the energy commodities delivered for energy purposes to industry, transport, households, services (including public services), agriculture, forestry and fisheries, including the consumption of electricity and heat by the energy branch for electricity and heat production and including losses of electricity and heat in distribution and transmission.

Energy production from non-renewable municipal wastes was deducted from the contribution of biomass to heating and electricity generation. Consumption for pipeline transport was included in gross final consumption of energy, in line with the sectoral classification of the Energy Statistics Regulation. To improve accuracy and consistency with national statistics in calculating renewable energy shares, national calorific values for oil products were used, where available, for converting quantities of petroleum products into energy units, instead of the default Eurostat values.

The Commission has only recently established definitive guidelines for accounting of energy from heat pumps. Despite the lack of an approved statistical methodology at the time of data collection and for reasons of completeness, the contribution of renewable energy from heat pumps was taken into account in cases where sufficient information was submitted by Member States. For these reasons, some small differences exist between data used for this publication and those published in the energy balances.

Energy statistics and energy balances available from Eurostat (as well as at international level from OECD/IEA) do not distinguish between sustainable and non-sustainable renewable sources of energy. This split is possible in the accounting tool (SHARES tool[2]) developed by Eurostat, where reporting countries have to provide additional information in this respect. It should be borne in mind, therefore — unless explicitly stated — that renewables include all renewable energy sources, both those meeting sustainability criteria and those that do not comply with such criteria.

Data for the period 2004-2010: Directive 2009/28/EC did not yet exist or was only very recently adopted. In most European countries, it had not been enacted into national legislation. The values in these years are not used for any measurement of legislative compliance with the indicative trajectory defined in part B of Annex I of the Directive. It was decided that for the years 2004-2010 all biofuels and bioliquids would be counted towards the numerator of the share of energy from renewable sources.

Data for 2011 onwards: Compliance with Article 17 (Sustainability criteria for biofuels and bioliquids) has to be assessed with respect to Article 18 (Verification of compliance with the sustainability criteria for biofuels and bioliquids). As of reference year 2011, countries are to report as compliant only those biofuels and bioliquids for which compliance with both Article 17 and Article 18 can be fully demonstrated. Only reported compliant biofuels and bioliquids are counted towards the respective shares of renewables.

As stipulated in the Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/EC, gross final consumption of electricity from renewable sources is the electricity produced from renewable energy sources, excluding hydropower electricity produced from pumped storage plants using water previously pumped uphill. The Directive also requires electricity production from hydropower and wind energy to be normalised. Given the 15-year normalisation requirement for hydropower production and the availability of energy statistics (for the EU-28, starting from 1990), long time series of this indicator are not available.

For the purpose of calculating the share of renewable energy in heating and cooling, final consumption of energy from renewable sources is defined as the final consumption of renewable energy in industry, households, services, agriculture, forestry and fisheries for heating and cooling purposes, plus district heating produced from renewables. The total final consumption for heating and cooling is the final consumption of all energy commodities, except electricity, for purposes other than transport, plus the consumption of heat for own use at electricity and heat plants and heat losses in networks. For more detailed definition, please see SHARES tool manual[3].


The Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/EC on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources established a European framework for the promotion of renewable energy, setting mandatory national renewable energy targets for achieving a 20 % share of renewable energy in final energy consumption — and a 10 % share of energy from renewable sources in transport — by 2020. These goals are headline targets of the European 2020 strategy for growth. They contribute to Europe’s industrial innovation and technological leadership, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve the security of our energy supply and reduce our energy import dependency.

Further Eurostat information


Main tables

Energy statistics - main indicators (t_nrg_indic)
Energy statistics - quantities (t_nrg_quant)


Energy statistics - main indicators (nrg_indic)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables, figures and maps (MS Excel)

Other information

External links

See also


  1. Please see (nrg_105a) for detailed data on electricity generation.