UK, France and three others may miss binding EU renewables targets

Several European member states including France, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands and the UK run the risk of missing their 2020 renewable energy targets, according to the latest progress report from the European Commission.

The targets are legally binding, meaning the countries will face fines if they fall short of their targeted shares of renewable energy in their respective energy mixes.

According to the European Commission, the five countries most at risk will need to assess whether their policies are sufficient to meet their 2020 renewable energy targets.

Belgium and Spain should also consider which policies and tools are sufficient to meet their renewable energy objectives, according to the Commission. In the case of Hungary and Poland, it is also uncertain whether they will reach their 2020 renewable energy targets.

Even though the UK has one of the lowest 2020 renewable energy targets of all EU member states, the UK’s share of renewable energy in its energy mix was just 5.1% in 2013, little more than one-third of its 15% by 2020 target.

Given that the UK is among the top three producers of wind power in Europe, the government may have to rethink its proposed strategy to eliminate onshore wind subsidies if it seeks to meet the EU targets. For example, installation volumes for solar power under Contracts for Difference fell following the removal of the Renewables Obligation for projects of over 5 MW.

Wind power generation in Europe more than tripled between 2005 and 2014 to become the second-largest contributor in terms of renewable energy in the region, behind hydropower, which comprised 43% of installed renewable electricity generation by the end of 2013. Solar power generation accounted for 10% of all renewable electricity by the end of the period.

France’s share of renewable energy in its mix was 14.2% in 2013, but again, the country is at risk of missing its 23% target for 2020. France, like the UK and Germany, is also transitioning to an auction system for renewable energies, and launched a 400 MW tender for solar photovoltaic projects above 250 kW in December last year.

Malta’s renewables share was just 3.8% in 2013, a little less than one-quarter of the way towards its 10% target. Luxembourg had just 3.6% renewables in its energy mix as of 2013, also far short of its 11% by 2020 target. The Netherlands’ share was 4.5%, compared to a target of 14%.

Those countries that are borderline with respect to whether they will meet their renewables targets in 2020 are typically just over halfway towards meeting their targets.

Belgium, for example, had 7.9% renewables as of 2013, compared to a 13% target. Spain’s renewables share was 15.4% in 2013, not far off its 2020 target of 20%, though it was likely included in the list due to its historical retroactive reductions of renewable energy subsidies. Hungary achieved a 9.8% share of renewables in its electricity mix in 2013, out of a 13% by 2020 target, while Poland’s share was 11.3%, compared to a target of 15%.

The European Commission notes in its report that some member states have taken important decisions on public support which, if implemented in a timely manner, could deliver the necessary growth in renewable energy deployments to enable them to meet their renewable energy targets. Further policy changes among some member states are expected by the end of this year.

This article originally appeared on a clean energy news service operated by VB Research, a sister publication to The Engineer. The reporter, Jessica Mills Davies, can be reached at