On Thursday, I launched a report I wrote for the Centre for European Reform on how the EU should meet its 2020 target that 20% of all energy should be from renewable sources (see Centre for European Reform: policy brief: How to meet the EU’s renewables target). Meeting the target would help control climate change, greatly increase EU energy security and create many new jobs and industries. The EU currently generates around 8.5% of its total energy needs from renewable sources. The proportion of energy coming from renewables has increased by a third since the European Commission began taking renewables seriously in 1997. Therefore, Europe needs to move more than three times as fast over the next 12 years as it has over the last 12. This is perfectly possible, but will not be easy.
To harness the enormous renewables resources provided by wind and solar energy, major new electricity grids linking EU member-states across the North Sea, and with North Africa, must be built. The EU institutions should help finance this investment.
Renewable energy is not just about renewable electricity. Only a fifth of EU energy consumption comprises electricity. A major share of the increase in renewable energy capacity should take the form of renewable gas, generated from sewage and other waste. This would significantly reduce the cost of meeting the renewables target, since major investment is already needed to upgrade sewage treatment infrastructure to meet water quality directives.