By Roy L Hales
Aside from the cold winter of 2012, Europe’s electric consumption has been declining the past five years. A combination of milder winters, advances in energy efficiency and some industry relocations have brought the numbers down. It is against this background that the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) point to the marked growth of wind and solar energy. According to their report Electricity in Europe 2014, renewables supplied 32.9% of the EU’s electricity.
Renewables Supplied 32.9% of the EU’s Electricity
Fossil fuels are still Europe’s leading energy source, but their market share decreased 7% in 2014. This lost market share went to wind and solar, which both increased 12%.
In a recent interview Susanne Nies, Corporate Affairs Manager at ENTSO-E, told Energy Post that Europe may eventually utilise an energy supply that is 80% renewable, but “the electricity system needs to change. The big issue is variability. We need more storage, more demand response, more e-mobility, data management, more cooperation between DSO’s (distribution system operators) and TSO’s (transmission system operators).In addition, we need market signals to attract investment. This is our main worry now.”
Using a High Proportion of Renewables
Most of the nations using a high proportion of renewables were both small and net electricity exporters:
- Norway’s generation was 110% renewable, & exported 15.6% more than it imports.
- Sweden’s generation was 63.1%, & exported 15.6%
- Switzerland’s generation was 62.8% & exported 4.3%
- Austria’s generation was 60.8% & exported 4.3%
- Croatia’s generation was54.3% & 2.8%
- Romania’s generation was 50.2%, & exported 7.1%
- Slovenia’s generation was 49.6%, & exported 2.7%
- Bosnia & Herzegovina’s generation was 49.4%, & exported 2.8%
The three exceptions, as far as being exporters, were:
- Iceland obtains 100% of its’ electricity needs from renewables
- Portugal’s generation was 62.5%, & trade was balanced
- Denmark’s generation was 47.9% renewable, and imported 2.8%
Wind Power Map
The three nations that supplied 56% of ENTSO-E’s wind energy are not in that list. Germany, Spain and the UK derived 10.1%, 19.1% and 9.7% of their electricity from wind, respectively. They had more spectacular results on individual days. According to data from Fraunhofer, German “wind power achieved a new record of 29.7 GW in peak power production at Friday, 12th of December 2014.”
Smaller nations like Denmark (42.7%), Portugal (24.1%) and Ireland (21.2%) all obtained higher proportions of wind energy. (None are regarded as net electricity exporters.)
Denmark, the UK and Ireland led Europe in terms of wind installations in 2014, adding 8.2%, 3.7% and 2.7% respectively. Many suspect the pace will slow in the UK after the Renewables Obligations end in 2016.
Despite its’ popularity, there isn’t a nation in Europe that obtains 10% of its’ energy from the sun. The closest to this figure are Greece (9.5%) and Italy (8.7%).
Once again, Germany set a record: obtaining 23.1 GW, or 50.6% of its electricity demand, from solar on June 9, 2014. (They passed this in April, 2015.) The nation’s annual statistics are less impressive, only 6.3% during in 2014.
Germany, Italy and Spain supplied 78% of Europe’s solar energy in 2014.
As a result of the meltdowns at Chornobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011), many do not include nuclear power as a “clean energy” source. Yet it is still the second most used source of electricity, supplying more than a quarter of the continent’s needs. Most of France’s (76.8%), Slovakia’s (57%) and Hungary’s (56%) electricity comes from nuclear plants. Though usage in both the UK and Belgium decreased due to temporary shut-downs, this was offset by increases in other countries. Thus ENTSO-E concludes, “The total nuclear Net Generating Capacity is quite stable.”
The #1 Renewable: Hydraulic Energy
Europe’s #1 renewable is hydraulic energy, primarily from Scandinavia and the Carpathians. It supplied 18.5% of the continent’s electricity. The chief producers of hydro power were: Norway, which obtained 95.9% of its electricity from hydo power, Austria 61.3% and Switzerland 56.4%. There was no significant change, in capacity, during 2014.