Europe is beating its renewable energy targets. Which countries are leading the charge?

In 2020, almost a quarter of the EU's electricity came from renewable sources.

European countries are beating their renewable energy targets

  • In 2020, almost a quarter of the EU's electricity came from renewable sources.
  • This beat the bloc's self-imposed targets and outperformed other leading nations.
  • The EU has said that this is an important milestone on the region's journey to net-zero emissions.

The European Union has passed another milestone in the race towards a zero-carbon future, with official statistics showing the continent beat its targets for the use of renewable energy in 2020.

The 27 EU member states sourced an average of 22% of their energy from renewables – two percentage points ahead of the goal that the bloc set itself in 2009.

This is a good accomplishment and an important milestone for the EU on their path to climate neutrality by 2050.

The European Union has a specific definition for renewable sources that includes water power, wind power, solar power, geothermal energy, and air heat pumps. Power generated by burning biomass, biogas, liquid biofuels and municipal waste also counts as renewable.

Two non-EU members lead the European renewable energy league table. Iceland and Norway – both of which are members of the wider European Economic Area (EEA) – generated a respective 83.7% and 77.4% of their power using renewables in 2020. Sweden had the highest share of renewables of any EU member state, at 60%.

Both Sweden and Croatia were able to exceed their EU-set targets by 11 percentage points. Bulgaria was able to exceed its goal by 7 percentage points. These nations were able to do this because they took into account each nation’s starting point on the route to net zero, as well as its potential to use renewables.

Renewable energy targets achieved

A number of European Union nations generated more than a third of their electricity from renewables. These nations were Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Austria and Portugal. All in all, 26 member states met or exceeded their targets.

Sweden also topped the World Economic Forum’s Energy Transition Index 2021, which tracks the progress of nations towards a zero-carbon future. Norway was placed second and Denmark third, while the top five were all European countries.

EU members with the lowest renewables share in their energy mix were Malta at 10.7% and Luxembourg with 11.7%, but both still achieved their targets. Only France missed its goal – it generated 19.1% of its energy from renewables. However, more than 70% of France’s energy needs were still met by a low-carbon fuel in 2020 – nuclear power.

The UK, which left the EU on 31 January 2020 and is not included in the data, sourced 42% of its energy from renewables in 2020, while in the United States, renewables accounted for 19.8% of that year’s electricity generation, according to US government data.

China, the world leader in wind power, generated 14% of its electricity from renewables in 2020. Beijing plans to get 80% of its energy from non-fossil fuel sources by 2060.

Renewables, like solar and wind energy, now account for 27% of the world's electricity. The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that this will rise to 33% by 2025. This means renewables will soon be the biggest source of electricity in the world, surpassing coal. However, the IEA warns that more needs to be done to speed up the growth of renewables if we want to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Back to all articles

Greater sales tomorrow begin with your decision now.