Renewable energy resources, according to the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), are poised to meet over half of EU’s electricity demand by 2030. In a statement released in mid-January 2012, Justin Wilkes, EWEA’s Director of Policy, said that the EU had already achieved the 21% target set in a 2001 directive for the end of 2010 by generating somewhere between 665-673 TWh from renewable resources, or 21% of total EU consumption of 3,115-3,175 TWh in 2010.

That is an impressive feat. But even more impressive is what Mr. Wilkes says can be achieved by 2020 and 2030 if EU merely stays the course. If renewable electricity production in the EU continues to grow at the same rate as it did from 2005 to 2010 it would reach 36.4% and an amazing 51.6% of electricity consumption within EU block by 2020 and 2030, respectively.

“The renewable electricity targets set back in 2001 have been realistic as well as effective” according to Mr. Wilkes, adding, “The growth achieved in the last five years has been outstanding and if continued would result in over half of the EU’s electricity coming from renewables by 2030.”

These projections, even allowing for some wishful thinking by the likes of EWEA, suggest that at least within the EU block, much higher renewable targets can be achieved by 2030 – in contrast to BP‘s projections, which assumes a 26% renewable penetration. Clearly one of the two is off target.

“The renewable electricity targets set back in 2001 have been realistic as well as effective”

Equally impressive is the amount of renewables as percentage of new installed capacity within EU, reported to be 71.3% for 2011, in a report also released by EWEA in February 2012. The association says 9,616 MW of wind energy capacity was installed in the EU in 2011, bringing the cumulative wind capacity to 93,957 MW, enough to supply 6.3% of the EU’s electricity demand assuming historical capacity factors. New wind accounted for 21.4% of new EU capacity, with the balance coming from solar and other renewable resources.

Impressive Growth Rates

EU’s wind industry has had an average annual growth rate of 15.6% over the past 17 years. Overall EU’s generation capacity grew a mere 3.9% in 2011 compared to 2010 to 896 GW. Germany remains the country with the largest installed wind capacity, followed by Spain, France, Italy, and the UK within the EU, in that order.

Globally, wind grew by 41 GW or 6% in 2011, with China accounting for over 2/5th of the global growth, according to Steve Sawyer, Secretary General of the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC). The latest annual GWEC report says China installed 18 GW of new wind capacity in 2011, 6.8 GW for the US and 3 for India, followed by Germany, the UK, Canada and Spain, in that order.

Solar energy, especially PVs, also continues to grow, with sunny Italy surpassing the not-so-sunny Germany for the first time in new installations. According to the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA), Italy installed 9 GW of new PV capacity in 2011 compared to 2.3 GW in 2010, accounting for a full 1/3rd of new PV capacity in the world. Germany, in comparison, added 7.5 GW of new PV capacity last year.

Globally, 27.7 GW of new PV capacity was added in 2011 from 16.6 GW in 2010, with Europe accounting for more than 75% of the total. Global PV capacity is estimated to exceed 67.4 GW at the end of 2011. After hydro and wind, PV is now the third biggest form of installed renewable energy capacity.

A report by PriceWaterHouse Coopers (PwC), the consultancy, says global renewable energy “deals” climbed 40% to a record high of $53.5 billion last year from $38.2 billion in 2010, with transactions in solar, wind and energy efficiency overtaking hydropower for the first time. “Sustained high deal numbers and record total value reflect a maturing of the sector,” according to Paul Nillesen, a PwC Partner.

Perry Sioshansi is the editor of EEnergy Informer, and a consultant for energy firms. He can be reached at [email protected].

A recent book, Smart Grid: Integrating Renewable, Distributed, and Efficient Energy, edited by Sioshansi, explores the many dimensions of the smart grid . With contributions from a number of prominent experts, scholars and practitioners with different perspectives, the book provides a broad coverage of the what, how, when, why and other facets of the smart grid.