The growth of renewable energy has accelerated rapidly in recent years, due to increased concerns for climate change and support for environmental sustainability. In 2021 alone, over 30% of global energy came from renewable technologies, and from 2015-2020, the market share of solar and wind energy grew at a compound annual growth rate of over 15%.
Historically Europe has been seen a global leader in revolutionising the renewable energy industry. Denmark installed the world’s first offshore wind farm back in 1991, and by the year 2000, more than 70% of the global wind power installations were based within Europe. By 2009, the Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC) had been established.
More recently, 2020 came as a significant year for Europe in the transition away from fossil fuels and into renewable energy. Over 38% of electricity was generated by renewables that year, a greater percentage than of that generated by fossil fuels at 34%. Wind turbines and solar panels in particular generated over 22% of Europe’s electricity, which was a huge rise from just 16% back in 2016. Investment in wind and solar power appears to be the main driver for decarbonisation in Europe, with wind generation increasing by 9% and solar energy by 15% in 2020.
Whilst the primary fossil-fuel producing nations across Europe were previously Germany, the Netherlands and Spain, with large-scale shutdowns of fossil-field plants in recent years, the emergence of Poland and the Czech Republic remain to be of the remaining few contributing to the largest production of fossil fuels. In relation to decarbonisation however, there are several leading nations emerging across Europe. There has been a significant increase in the installation of wind power plants across the EU in 2020, most notably in Denmark and France. In addition, a large number of solar energy facilities are expected to open in 2022 in France and Germany, with a 16% increase in solar production expected before 2025.
The European Union (EU) has additionally developed targets to achieve a 32% share of global renewable energy consumption by 2030, as outlined by energy and climate targets from the 2021 COP26 UN Climate Change Conference, firming placing Europe as a strong global leader in the renewables sector.