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JRC: Increased use of renewables results in growing GHG emission savings in the EU; transport contribution only 5%

Greenhouse gasses (GHG) emission savings due to final renewable energy consumption in electricity; cooling/heating; and transport sectors rose at a compound annual growth rate of 8.8% from 2009 to 2012, confirming renewables’ potential in climate change mitigation, according to a new report by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Commission’s in-house science service. Nearly two thirds of the total savings came from renewable energy development in Germany, Sweden, France, Italy and Spain.

The report assesses data on the use of renewable energy, submitted by EU Member States every two years, as required by EU legislation on renewable energy. The report estimates that in 2012, when total GHG emissions reached the equivalent of 4546 Mt CO₂, the deployment of all renewables in the EU avoided the equivalent of 716 Mt CO₂ emissions. According to the report, the highest contribution by renewables in climate change mitigation in the EU in 2012 came from renewable electricity, which covered 64% of the savings, due to high penetration of wind and solar power, followed by renewable heating and cooling (31%) and renewable transport (5%).

Pie chart showing Sectoral (electricity; heating/cooling; transport) breakdown of GHG emission savings in the EU due to renewable energy 2012. Click to enlarge.

Transport. The absolute level of GHG emission savings due to renewable energy use in the transport sector increased continuously from 2009 to 2012, rising at an average rate of 2.1% per year from 24.4 Mt CO2eq in 2009 to 33.8 Mt CO2eq in 2012.

The proportion of GHG emission savings in the transport sector rose from 5.3% in 2009 to 5.9% in 2011 and then fell back to 5.3% in 2012. GHG emission savings from the use of renewable energy in transport accounted for 2.5% of total GHG emissions from this sector in 2009 and 3.6% in 2012.

Renewable energy use in this sector developed following a different trend in 2010-11, decreasing by 4% (3,513 ktoe). Due to the requirements of Article 17 of the RED relating to sustainability criteria for biofuels and bioliquids, some Member States did not report on the use in transport of biofuels that did not fulfil the criteria.

The report authors said that it was not clear from the first and second progress reports whether biofuels that did not fulfil the above-mentioned criteria were taken into account when calculating the GHG emission savings from this sector.

The GHG emission savings due to renewable energy used in transport increased from 50 kg CO2eq/capita in 2009 to 70 kg CO2eq/capita in 2012.

In the transport sector France was the main GHG emissions saver (6.16 Mt CO2eq) due to the use of renewable energy in transport, followed by Spain with 5.89 Mt CO2eq, Germany with 5.60 Mt CO2eq, Poland with 3.08 Mt CO2eq and Italy with 2.67 Mt CO2eq.

Changes in GHG emissions in 2012 due to the use of renewables in transport. Click to enlarge.

The transport sector is expected to provide a 10% contribution in gross final energy consumption up to 2020. Up to 2012 renewable energy use in this sector doesn’t [sic] developed at the expected level in some Member States especially due to the difficulties in fulfilling the sustainability criteria established at Article 17 of the RED. For this reason some Member States didn’t report on biofuels used in transport sector remaining out of the contribution this sector had in the net GHG emission savings in the EU which count for only 4.7% of this net savings.

—Banja et al.

Among the other high-level findings of the report:

  • Renewable energy related GHG emission savings increased from 1.05 Mt CO2eq/capita in 2009 to 1.42 Mt CO2eq/capita in 2012;

  • The contribution of EU GHG emission savings from the use of renewable energy to total energy-related GHG emission3 rose from 12.6% in 2009 to 16.6% in 2012;

  • The proportion of GHG emission savings due to the use of renewable energy in the EU rose from 35% of total GHG emission reductions4 in 2009 to nearly 40% in 2012;

  • GHG emission savings due to renewable electricity accounted for 19.7% of the total GHG emissions reduction in the EU in 2009 and 25.5% in 2012.

Background. The report—Renewable energy in European Union for climate change mitigation: Greenhouse gas emission savings due to renewable energy (2009-12)—provides an overview of greenhouse gas emission savings in the EU due to the use of renewable energy in three sectors: electricity, heating/cooling and transport. The assessment is based on data reported by EU Member States in their 2011 and 2013 progress reports, as required under Article 22(1)(k) of Directive 2009/28/EC on renewable energy. The directive requires the EU to fulfil at least 20% of its total energy needs with renewables by 2020—to be achieved through the attainment of individual national targets.

The JRC has released a set of reports analyzing renewable energy progress based on member states’ national renewable energy action plans (NREAPs) and progress reports submitted every two years to the European Commission. JRC scientists examined the status of burden sharing for the 2020 climate and energy targets, foreseeing a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels; a shared increase of EU energy consumption produced from renewable resources to 20%; and 20% improvement in the EU’s energy efficiency. In October 2014, EU leaders agreed on more ambitious goals for 2030 with a domestic emission reduction target of at least 40% below 1990 levels and increase of renewable energy share of at least 27% and an energy efficiency goal of at least 27%.


  • Banja M., Monforti-Ferrario F., Bódis K., Motola V. (2015). “Renewable energy in Europe for climate change mitigation – Greenhouse gas emission savings due to renewable energy (2009- 12)” JRC Science for Policy Report, EUR 27253 EN doi: 10.2790/941325


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