Written by Stephen Lacey, ThinkProgress
As the sovereign debt crisis unfolds in Europe, onlookers have questioned whether the region will stay committed to renewable energy. The answer so far is “yes.”
Even with a few countries pulling back on government support of the industry because of fiscal troubles, 2011 was still a huge year for deployment — with wind and solar alone representing almost 70% of new capacity.
That’s almost a 10-fold increase over deployment in 2000, when only 3.5 GW of renewable energy projects were installed. Last year, 32 GW of renewables — mostly wind and solar — were deployed across European countries.
The figures come from the European Wind Energy Association, which just released a report on industry growth.
Growth in Europe has consistently outstripped forecasts. The EU currently has a target of getting 20% of its final energy (heat, electricity and fuels) from renewable energy. Numerous countries have already surpassed their needed targets in the electricity and heating sectors, and it’s likely that the entire region will move past the goal well ahead of schedule.
It’s expected that renewable electricity sources will meet 34% of demand in Europe by 2020, with 25 of 27 countries to surpass their targets beforehand.
In 2011, solar PV accounted for 26.7% of capacity additions, wind power accounted for 21.4% of additions, and natural gas made up 22% of installations. Below that was coal at 4.8%, fuel oil at 1.6%, large hydro at 1.3%, and concentrating solar power at 1.1% of capacity.
(A side note to anyone confused by terms: It is always important to remember that “capacity” is the ability to do work. It is completely different than actual electricity generation. Just because 68% of new capacity was added in 2011, doesn’t mean that Europe will get 68% more electricity from renewables. Hence, the major differences in generation figures).
So what does Europe’s power capacity mix look like today?
Notice the stunning increase in wind, solar and natural gas — by far the top three choices for developers in the region. However, coal and fuel oil still have a very large market share. Some experts are concerned that a roll back of nuclear in various countries will increase the share of fossil fuels, particularly coal.
But with wind, solar and gas prices all declining to record lows, the combination of those three resources could prevent a sizable increase in coal development.
This post originally appeared at ThinkProgress.
Photo credit: Stefan Gara
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