Energy Transition

This country is leading the charge for renewable energy generation in the EU

This Nordic country is leading the renewable energy transition charge.

This Nordic country is leading the renewable energy transition charge. Image: Karsten Würth/Unsplash

Ewan Thomson
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Energy Transition

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • The European Union aims to be the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050, as laid out in its European Green Deal.
  • New official data charting EU countries’ progress on their renewable energy goals shows Sweden is leading the field.
  • With the global energy system under transformation, a new World Economic Forum report identifies the need for collaboration across sectors to sustainably meet demand.

One of the key commitments made during COP28 was to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030.

But the European Union (EU) has made pledges, too, aiming to be the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050, as laid out in its European Green Deal.

New data highlights progress made by individual EU countries on their renewable energy goals, and how the bloc’s energy needs are evolving.

So which countries are leading the way in renewable power generation, and how are they achieving it?

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Overall share of energy from renewable sources in 2022.
Sweden and Finland are leading the way for renewable energy use in the EU. Image: Eurostat

Renewable energy leader in the EU: Sweden

Sweden relied on renewable energy, including hydropower, wind, biofuels and heat pumps, to deliver nearly two-thirds of its energy consumption in 2022.

The Nordic country enjoys the ecological advantages of a rich supply of running water and large areas of forest, the former used mainly to produce electricity, and the latter for heating purposes.

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But it has also benefited from a forward-thinking approach to energy policies by its government. The Electricity Certificate System, launched in 2003, was designed to increase renewable energy output in a cost-efficient way.

And Sweden even uses the body heat from its commuters to Stockholm Central Station to heat building space.

Other leading renewable energy EU nations

Finland is second to Sweden for renewable energy production in the EU, relying on hydro, wind power and biofuels to provide almost half of its energy requirements. Meanwhile, Latvia, Denmark, Estonia, Portugal and Austria all secured a third of their energy needs from renewable sources in 2022, the latest annual data from eurostat shows.

Overall, though, the share of renewable sources in the EU’s final energy consumption increased by over one percentage point on 2021 levels to reach 23%. The EU’s 2030 target for renewable energy is to reach 42.5% across the bloc.

Europe’s energy transition journey

Europe has been steadily transitioning towards renewable energy sources for its electricity generation, making considerable progress over the last decade.

Back in 2011, fossil fuels made up just under half of the EU’s electricity production, with renewable energy sources providing just 18%.

Fast-forward to 2022, and wind and solar power alone generated 22% of EU electricity, compared with natural gas at 20% and coal generating 16%. Hydro and nuclear power still make up the leading sources of electricity production at around 32%, even with a “1-in-500 year drought across Europe” that severely curtailed hydropower generation, according to energy think tank Ember.

EU wind and solar generated more than gas for the first time
The use of wind and solar energy in the EU has been steadily increasing. Image: Ember

But despite the positive increases in renewable energy production, EU energy ministers have extended emergency measures linked to the 2022 energy crisis, Reuters reports. This is to safeguard against more energy price shocks, as fears of escalating tensions in the Middle East continue.

Europe’s decarbonization road ahead

In its Fostering Effective Energy Transition 2023 report, the World Economic Forum highlights global progress made in the last decade but warns of a plateau amid the energy crisis and geopolitical volatilities. A focus on short-term energy security solutions could slow the progress of EU (and other) countries looking to meet their 2050 net-zero commitments.

The European Commission aims to mobilize at least €1 trillion in sustainable investments over the next decade. Where and how that money is best invested to ensure the bloc moves closer to its decarbonization targets will likely be part of discussions at the World Economic Forum’s 54th Annual Meeting in Davos, 15-19 January.

“As the global energy system transforms, leaders across all sectors need to collaborate to accelerate an energy transition that creates positive outcomes for people, society and the planet,” says the Forum in Transforming Energy Demand – a new white paper produced in collaboration with PwC.

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Energy TransitionDavos Agenda
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