EU sees renewable leap despite COVID impact

The European Union is forging ahead with the use of renewable energy but the COVID restriction saw fossil fuel use leap.

Eurostat issued a new report which found that the use of renewable energy for heating and cooling has leapt as has the number of battery powered vehicles on member countries’ roads.

The report said energy for heating and cooling represents almost 50% of the EU’s total gross final energy consumption. In absolute terms, the gross final consumption of renewable energy for heating and cooling purposes in the EU has gradually increased over time, mostly due to the contribution of biomass and heat pumps.

However, it found for 2021, gross consumption of all fuels also increased mainly due to economic recovery after lifting COVID-19 restrictions.

“As a result, the share of renewable energy in gross final consumption for heating and cooling purposes decreased by 0.1 percentage points (pp), from 23.0% in 2020 to 22.9% in 2021,” according to the report. “This is almost double the value in 2004 (11.7%). “Developments in the industrial sector, services and households (including the electrification of heating by using heat pumps) contributed to the growth of renewable energy in heating and cooling.”

Among the EU Member States, Sweden was by far the biggest user of renewable energy with more than two-thirds (68.6%) of the energy used for heating and cooling in 2021 stemming from renewable sources (mostly biomass and heat pumps), followed by Estonia (61.3%), Latvia (57.4%) and Finland (52.6%), all of them using a large share of biomass.

In contrast, the countries with the lowest percentage of renewable sources for heating and cooling were Ireland (5.2%), the Netherlands (7.7%) and Belgium (9.2%).

“All EU Member States reported an increase from 2004 to 2021. The highest increases were recorded in Cyprus (+32.1 percentage points; pp), followed by Malta (+30.3 pp), Estonia (+28.0 pp) and Sweden (+22.7 pp).” the report added. “Smaller increases were recorded in Ireland (+2.3 pp), Belgium (+6.3 pp) and the Netherlands (+5.5 pp).”

On the EU’s roads the number of battery-only electric passenger cars  reached 1.9 million in 2021, a leap of 76% compared with 2020.

The highest rate of increase in battery-only electric passenger cars during the period 2013-2021 was noted between 2019 and 2020 (+83%), followed by the increase in 2021 compared with 2020. However it still makes up a tiny proportion of vehicles with the share of battery-only electric passenger cars in the total number of passenger cars growing from 0.02% in 2013 to 0.76% 2021.

“The overall share of battery-only electric passenger cars is expected to grow considerably over the coming years in the run up to the 2035 EU ban on combustion engine cars,” the report stated. “The ban is linked to the Sustainable Development Indicator on reducing CO² emissions from new passenger cars.

“Overall, the passenger car fleet in almost all of the EU members has grown over the last five years, reaching a total of 253 million passenger cars in 2021 (+17% compared with 2013).”

The research found the highest share of the newest passenger cars (2 years and less) among the EU members was registered in Luxembourg (19% of all passenger cars in Luxembourg), followed by Sweden (16%), France, Austria and Belgium (all 15%). Meanwhile, the oldest passenger cars (20 years or older) were registered in Poland (41%), Estonia (33%) and Finland (29%).

On the EU’s roads the number of battery-only electric passenger cars  reached 1.9 million in 2021, a leap of 76% compared with 2020.