IRENA: EU can increase share of renewables to 34% by 2030

The European Union is in a position to increase its share of renewable energy in its energy mix to 34% by 2030, which is double its share in 2016, and all the while resulting in a net positive impact, according to a new report published by the International Renewable Energy Agency this week.

As it currently stands, the European Union renewable energy target is set to achieve 27% renewable energy as part of the overall energy mix by 2030, a target set back in 2014 when the shape of the renewable energy market looked a lot different than it does today. While there have been rumblings within the EU that the target should be modified, nothing has yet been done except for various exploratory committees.

That might change, however, following this week’s presentation by the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) Director-General, Mr Adnan Z. Amin, of ‘Renewable Energy Prospects for the European Union’, a report which was developed by IRENA at the request of the European Commission. Mr Amin explained that today’s technologies have opened the door for the European Union to increase its renewable energy ambitions which would, in turn, trigger additional investments of around €368 billion until 2030 — the equivalent of an average annual contribution of 0.3% of the GDP of the EU.

Specifically, IRENA suggests that technological development combined with new information and communication technologies have paved the way for the EU to effectively and economically increase its share of renewable energy in its energy mix to 34% by 2030. Raising the level of renewable energy ambition would also help reduce emissions by a further 15% by 2030, bringing the EU in line with its goal of reducing emissions by 40% compared to 1990 levels. Increasing renewable energy ambition would also result in savings of between €44 billion and €113 billion per year by 2030 — savings found in reducing the cost of energy and avoiding health and environmental costs.

“For decades now, through ambitious long-term targets and strong policy measures, Europe has been at the forefront of global renewable energy deployment,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “With an ambitious and achievable new renewable energy strategy, the EU can deliver market certainty to investors and developers, strengthen economic activity, grow jobs, improve health and put the EU on a stronger decarbonisation pathway in line with its climate objectives.”

As part of the Renewable Energy Prospects for the European Union report — which is part of IRENA’s renewable energy roadmap, REmap — IRENA identifies the potential for 327 GW (gigawatts) worth of installed wind capacity, an extra 97 GW on top of the current ‘business as usual’ scenario, and another 270 GW worth of solar, an 86 GW increase on business as usual. This would help push the share of renewable energy in the EU’s power sector to 70% by 2030, compared with only 29% in 2015.

Maybe the most important outcome from the IRENA report was the finding that every EU Member Country has room to increase their use of renewable energy. According to the report, in 2015, renewable energy shares across the EU varied from as small as 5% and as large as 54%. Nevertheless, there is still potential across the board with various factors impacting the outcome for each country.

“The report confirms our own assessments that the costs of renewables have come down significantly in the last couple of years, and that we need to consider these new realities in our ambition levels for the upcoming negotiations to finalise Europe’s renewable energy policies,” said Mr. Miguel Arias Cañete, European Commissioner for Energy and Climate Action in response to the publication of the report and IRENA’s finding.

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