Where does European electricity come from?

The explosion of the number 2 reactor at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in March 2011 marked a real turning point in international consciousness. This catastrophe not only echoes the 1986 nuclear spill in Ukraine, but it also reignites the discussion about the position of nuclear power in the energy mix. Since then, Germany has decided to phase out its nuclear plants, but what are the other energy sources it relies on? So far, not a single European country has really coordinated its energy policy with its neighbours. Despite the involvement of the EU, especially in the coordination of electricity grids, power production remains a national prerogative. An overview of the energy mixes of four European states helps gain insight into the diversity and lack of coordination of energy policies across the continent.

France’s nuclear bid

France is a unique case in Europe as it relies on 58 reactors accounting for 75% of its overall power production. No other European country relies on one single energy source for over 60% of its production. For instance, nuclear energy represents 47.3% of Spain’s energy mix, 23% in Germany (2010 figure, that is before the country decided to phase out its 17 reactors by 2022). Denmark is the sole country among this group which does not rely on atomic energy (1).

wind, nuclear, renewable energies, energy mix

French energy mix

Denmark: a leader on renewable energy sources…

Denmark is the most advanced country on renewable energies. Renewables make up 30% of its energy mix (20% wind power, 10% other) and should reach 50% by 2020. In Germany, 16% of energy comes from renewable sources, 15% in France and 11.3% in Spain.

… and a big CO² polluter

Whereas Denmark and Germany are much heralded for their assertive environmental policies, they rely heavily on fossil fuels for their power production: 70% in Spain and 55% in Germany. However, as we mentioned earlier on our electrical efficiency magazine, Germany wishes to change its production model and get over 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.  As far as air pollution is concerned, France produces the lowest CO2-emitting electricity in Europe, as it relies on fossil fuels for less than 10% of its mix.

wind, nuclear, renewable energies, energy mix

Spanish energy mix

wind, nuclear, renewable energies, energy mix

German energy mix

Europe sets common goals, leaving Member States to select ways and means to meet them

The so-called 3×20/2020 goals defined by the EU (20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, 20% increase in the share of renewable energy and 20% improvement in energy efficiency by 2020) set the framework for the nascent European energy policy.  The French Environment Round Table, for its part, set clear goals: the share of renewables in the energy mix should reach 23% as early as 2020.

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Sources :

(1)    Figures and diagrams excerpted from the 2011 report of the Syndicat des Energies Renouvelables, France’s umbrella renewable energy industry organization
(2)    Report on renewable energies in Spain, French Embassy in Spain, 2011

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