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Renewable energy directive

The renewable energy directive is the legal framework for the development of renewable energy across all sectors of the EU economy, and supports cooperation across EU countries.

Since the introduction of the Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC) in 2009, the deployment of renewables has kept growing yearly, reaching 21.8% in 2021. Sweden had the highest share of renewables in consumption (62.6%) in 2021, ahead of Finland (43.1%) and Latvia (42.1%), as reported to Eurostat. The 2022 study 'EU’s global leadership in renewables' confirms that the EU is already in a leading position for renewables technology development and deployment, but suggests that its competitive position on global renewable energy markets could be further strengthened.  

The Renewable Energy Directive was revised in 2018 and is legally binding since June 2021. The existing directive sets the overarching European target for renewable energy and includes rules to ensure the uptake of renewables in the transport sector and in heating and cooling, as well as common principles and rules for renewables support schemes, the rights to produce and consume renewable energy and to establish renewable energy communities, and sustainability criteria for biomass. The directive also establishes rules to remove barriers, stimulate investments and drive cost reductions in renewable energy technologies, and empowers citizens, consumers and businesses to participate in the clean energy transformation.

In July 2021, the Commission proposed another revision to accelerate the take-up of renewables in the EU and to help reaching the 2030 energy and climate objectives. The directive sets a common target – currently 32% – for the amount of renewable energy in the EU’s energy consumption by 2030. The proposed revision and the REPowerEU plan, presented in May 2022, suggest further evolution of the target to accelerate the take-up of renewables in the EU, including by speeding up the permitting processes for the deployment of renewables.

Revision of the directive

The ambition and measures in the directive have been reviewed several times in order to deliver the urgent emission cuts (at least 55% by 2030) that are required to achieve the EU’s increased climate ambitions. In July 2021, the Commission proposed a revision of the directive (COM/2021/557 final) with an increased 40% target as part of the package to deliver on the European Green Deal. In May 2022, the Commission proposed in its Communication on the REPowerEU plan (COM/2022/230 final) to further increase this target to 45% by 2030.

The revision of the directive also introduces new measures to complement the already existing building blocks established by the 2009 and 2018 directives to ensure that all potentials for the development of renewable energy are optimally exploited, which is a necessary condition to achieve the EU's objective of climate neutrality by 2050. These include notably strengthened measures to support renewables uptake in transport, heating and cooling, seeking to convert into EU law some of the concepts outlined in the energy system integration and hydrogen strategies, published in 2020. These concepts aim at creating an energy efficient and circular energy system based on renewable energy that facilitates renewables-based electrification and promotes the use of renewable and low-carbon fuels, including hydrogen, in sectors where electrification is not yet a feasible option, such as transport. 

The revision process

  • The proposed revision of the directive is now being considered by the Council and the European Parliament, along with the rest of the legislation aiming to deliver on the European Green Deal. The adoption is expected by first quarter 2023.
  • This revision process builds on extensive consultation of stakeholders and the public. This includes feedback on a roadmap that the Commission published in August 2020, a public consultation launched in November 2020 (a short summary was published in March 2021) and two stakeholder meetings that took place in December 2020 and in March 2021 to gather input from stakeholders.

Directive 2018/2001/EU

The current Renewable Energy Directive 2018/2001/EU entered into force in December 2018, as part of the Clean energy for all Europeans package, aimed at keeping the EU a global leader in renewables and, more broadly, helping it to meet its emissions reduction commitments under the Paris Agreement.

The directive establishes a new binding renewable energy target for the EU for 2030 of at least 32%, with a clause for a possible upwards revision by 2023. This target is a continuation of the 20% target for 2020. In order to help EU countries deliver on this target, the directive introduces new measures for various sectors of the economy, particularly on heating and cooling and transport, where progress has been slower (for example, an increased 14% target for the share of renewable fuels in transport by 2030). It also includes new provisions to enable citizens to play an active role in the development of renewables by enabling renewable energy communities and self-consumption of renewable energy. It also establishes strengthened criteria to ensure bioenergy's sustainability.

Timeline for renewable energy in the EU

  1. 2022
    REPowerEU Plan: EC proposal to raise target for 2030 to 45%
  2. 2021
    Renewable Energy Directive: EC proposal to raise target for 2030 to 40% 
  3. 2019
    EU power production from wind and solar surpass coal for the first time 
  4. 2018
    Revised Renewable Energy Directive: 32% renewables target for 2030 
  5. 2014
    Onshore wind is cheap­er than coal, gas and nuclear energy 
  6. 2009
    Renewable Energy Directive: EU target of 20% renewables by 2020 and national binding targets 
  7. 2008
    Olmedilla Photovoltaic park (Spain) - largest power plant (60MW) in the world - generates enough to power 40 000 homes/year
  8. 2003
    Directive on biofuels and renewable fuels for transport: national tar­gets for biofuels
  9. 2001
    Directive on electricity production from renewables: national indicative targets
  10. 2000
    First large-scale offshore wind farm (Denmark)
  11. 1997
    Energy for the future: renewable sources of energy: indicative EU target of 12% renewables by 2010
  12. 1991
    Germany introduces first feed-in-tarif for renewables