By RP Siegel
Market demand for renewable energy in Europe as documen-ted by Guarantees of Origin, grew by 8% over the previous year, extending an extraordinary growth streak. With thousands of businesses and individuals voluntarily purchasing renewables, the level of demand exceeded 340 TWh.
This tallies with the results of the Yale Environmental Performance Index, which showed that the top 10 countries in the world in terms of protecting ecosystems and human health are all in Europe. The index ranked 180 countries around the world with the U.S. coming in at number 26.
Roughly three-quarters of Europe’s impressive demand for renewables came from five countries: Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Italy. While Germany is still the largest market, with a volume of 87 TWh, the Netherlands is the fastest growing, consuming 42.5 TWh last year, a 12% increase over 2014.
We spoke with Tom Lindberg, Managing Director of ECOHZ, the sole provider of Guarantees of Origin in Europe. ECOHZ provides documented renewable energy, through the Association of Issuing Bodies (AIB) mechanism, based on the European Energy Certificate System (EECS) standard.
Lindberg explained to us, that as impressive as these numbers are, they don’t include all of the power produced, only that which came from countries that follow the EECS standard. For example, the U.K. does not participate, and Sweden and Spain are not yet fully compliant. Lindberg said that these three countries could add another 100TWh of demand next year.
Beyond the top five countries, most of the rest came from the next six: Norway, Austria, Finland, Denmark, France and Belgium. Each of these contributes a steady annual demand for renewables between 10 and 35 TWh.
It should be noted that these numbers are still largely dominated by hydro power. In Europe, all hydro power is considered renewable, whereas in the U.S., the very large-scale hydro projects are excluded.
Wind has the highest growth rate in terms of volume, while solar, which is still small in absolute numbers, has the highest percentage growth rate.
Some countries, given the large amount of subsidy given to solar in the form of feed-in tariffs, will not allow solar to be sold with a Guarantee of Origin, which means that those number could be under-reported. However, as solar prices continue to drop, less support will be required, and more of it will then qualify for certification.
What could be most surprising in Lindberg’s findings is that non-utility renewable investment, particularly in Germany, both from individual residents, businesses, and coops exceeded that of utilities. This is largely due, says Lindberg, to corporate initiatives like RE100, led by the Climate Group, in which dozens of major companies across the globe have pledged to power their operations by 100% renewable energy.
Another surprise was the fact that despite all we have heard about Germany’s massive solar commitment, it is actually Greece that has the largest amount of solar power generation on a per capita basis.
This might be surprising in the light of Greece’s financial difficulties, but then again, Greece does get far more sunshine, nearly twice as much as Germany in some places.