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Wind and solar increase their share in the EU energy mix

By European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC), edited by Kari Williamson

The steep increase of wind and solar photovoltaics (PV), has been noted in the latest edition of the Strategic Energy Technologies review – the 2011 Technology Map – produced by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC).

The 2011 Technology Map provides a European and worldwide analysis of 15 low-carbon energy technologies, energy efficiency in industry, energy performance of buildings and electricity storage in the power sector.

Compared with the 2009 Technology Map, the steep increase of wind and solar (photovoltaics) generation capacity in the EU and worldwide is to be highlighted. Nevertheless, on a global scale, hydropower continues to be the technology most widely used, providing 88% of electricity generated from renewable sources.

Among the updated data, the following findings can be highlighted:


The sector has seen significant changes in 2010 as compared to 2008, with deployment growing 29% in the EU to 84.3 GW of installed capacity, and an impressive 65% globally (to 200 GW), largely driven by China.

Solar PV

Solar PV electricity generation capacity worldwide has continued its impressive growth rate, almost tripling from 14 GW in 2008 to 39 GW in 2010 (and 70 GW at the end of 2011).

With a total installed capacity of almost 30 GW in the EU, the Member States have already made a significant step towards the target of 84 GW they committed in the National Renewable Energy Plans for 2020.

Concentrated solar power (CSP)

At the beginning of 2011, CSP plants with a cumulated capacity of about 730 MW, were in commercial operation in Spain, about 58% of the worldwide capacity of 1.26 GW.

Spain is also currently constructing an additional 898 MW and another 842 MW have already registered for the feed-in tariff, which would bring the total capacity to about 2.5 GW by 2013.

Ocean (marine) energy

Current costs of both wave and tidal stream energy are still considerably higher than other technologies. Nevertheless the costs have dropped since 2009, from 4500 -13,000 €/kW to 3750-6000 €/kW.

Most marine energy technologies are in an early stage of development, under demonstration or have a limited number of applications. Globally in 2010, more than 25 marine energy technology demonstration projects are being performed.


In 2009, the contribution of biomass was more than two-thirds (68.6 %) of all renewable primary energy consumption. Primary energy production reached 100.6 Mtoe: 72.5 Mtoe from solid biomass, 8.4 Mtoe from biogas, 7.7 Mtoe from municipal solid wastes (MSW) and 12.1 Mtoe from biofuels.

Of the total biomass consumption, 53 % was used for heat production, 33.8 % for electricity and co-generation and 13.2 % for liquid fuels. Adequate sustainability requirements are critical to ensure the long-term availability of biomass and to increase customer/public acceptance of biofuels/bioenergy production.


Since the adoption of the EU Renewables Directive in 2009, the development of advanced biofuel production processes has rapidly gathered pace. Major oil companies are now involved in large-scale demonstration projects in Europe and North America using non-food, waste and lignocellulosic feedstocks, mainly to produce bioethanol.

The EU National Renewable Energy Action Plans (NREAPs) predict that advanced biofuels will contribute 2.7 Mtoe to the transport sector by 2020, approximately 11% of the total biofuel contribution. Hydropower: is the most widely used form of renewable energy with 3190 TWh generated worldwide in 2010.


The global hydropower potential is considered to be around 7 500 TWh/y. In the EU, hydropower accounts for 11.6% of gross electricity generation. Nevertheless, the European hydropower potential is already relatively well exploited and expected future growth is rather limited.

Green building

About 37 % of final energy consumption is taken by the building sector (households and services), with roughly two thirds used for space conditioning (temperature and ventilation) and the remaining one third is mostly electricity used for installations and appliances.

The requirement of nearly-zero energy buildings from 2018-2020 as mentioned in the directive on energy performance of buildings (2010/31/EU) requires the development of new design approaches, supported by short and long term research activities, focusing more on the energy flows in, to and from the buildings.

Energy storage

Power storage technologies have gained increased interest in the light of developments in renewables and distributed generation.

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This article is featured in:
Bioenergy  •  Energy efficiency  •  Energy infrastructure  •  Energy storage including Fuel cells  •  Green building  •  Other marine energy and hydropower  •  Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity  •  Solar heating and cooling  •  Wave and tidal energy  •  Wind power