Zero-carbon generation rises to 56% in Europe

Renewables and nuclear have lifted Europe's no-carbon energy source share in recent years – with France, Scandinavia and Switzerland at plus-90 per cent levels.

US EIA

Penetration rates of no-carbon generation have increased from 50 to 56 per cent in recent years in Europe, as European Union countries work toward renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions targets. 

Increasing levels of renewable generation, along with nuclear generation, mean that many European countries generate a large share of their electricity from no-carbon sources.

No-carbon sources generate power while releasing virtually no carbon dioxide emissions, and include geothermal, hydroelectric, nuclear, solar (both utility scale and distributed solar), tidal, and wind generation. Although biomass power plants emit carbon dioxide during operation, the full life cycle of biomass fuels is often considered to be carbon neutral for the purposes of satisfying these countries' goals. 

map of low carbon net electricity generation in Europe, as explained in the article text

Source: US Energy Information Administration, International Energy Statistics (Note: Click to view larger map.)

France, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland each generated more than 90 per cent of their net electricity from no-carbon sources in 2012, and eight other countries had no-carbon electricity accounting for at least 50 per cent of their generation.

The share of no-carbon generation in European countries is expected to continue to increase, as the European Union's 2020 Climate and Energy Package targets both a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions and an increase in the share of energy consumption generated from renewable sources.

There has already been a substantial increase in no-carbon generation since 2002, as countries have added renewables to their generation mix (see graphs below).

Eighteen countries generate at least one-third of their generation from no carbon sources, and 13 generate at least half, up from 13 and 10, respectively, in 2002. Increased generation from solar, wind, and biomass has made up most of the change. For example, while Germany's overall no-carbon generation share rose only modestly between 2002 and 2012, from 38 per cent to 41 per cent, there has been a big shift within the no-carbon portfolio, with the nuclear generation share falling by 12 percentage points over this period. Germany's share of solar, wind, and biomass generation increased by 15 percentage points over the same period.

2012

Graph of no-carbon electricity generation share in Europe and the United States (2012), as described in the article text

2002

Graph of no-carbon electricity generation share in Europe and the United States (2002), as described in the article text

Source: US Energy Information Administration, International Energy Statistics

Like the United States, which generated 32 per cent of its electricity from no-carbon sources in 2012, countries in Europe generate most of their no-carbon electricity from nuclear and hydroelectric sources, along with a smaller portfolio of other renewables. There are some exceptions, however; along with hydroelectric power, almost 30 per cent of Iceland's total net electricity generation came from geothermal sources in 2012, while Denmark generated more than 50 per cent of its electricity from wind and biomass.

Originally published by the US Energy Information Administration. Reproduced with permission.