European Nations Say Yes to No-Carbon

September 23, 2014 By Karen Henry

eia-non-carbon-energy-manageAccording to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), penetration rates of no-carbon electricity generation have increased from 50 percent to 56 percent in recent years in Europe, as European Union (EU) countries work toward renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions targets.

In addition to geothermal, hydroelectric, nuclear, utility-scale and distributed solar, tidal and wind generation, the full lifecycle of biomass fuels is also considered carbon neutral for the purposes of satisfying these countries’ goals, despite the fact that biomass power plants emit carbon dioxide during operation.

The share of no-carbon generation in European countries is expected to continue to increase, as the EU’s 2020 Climate and Energy Package targets a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions and an increase in the share of energy consumption generated from renewable sources. There has already been a substantial increase in no-carbon generation since 2002, as countries have added renewables to their generation mix. Eighteen countries generate at least one-third of their electricity from no carbon sources, and 13 countries generate at least half, up from 13 and 10, respectively, in 2002. Increased generation from solar, wind and biomass has made up most of the change. For example, while Germany’s overall no-carbon generation share rose modestly, from 28 percent in 2002 to 41 percent in 2012, there has been a big shift within the no-carbon portfolio, with the nuclear generation share falling by 12 percent over this period. Germany’s share of solar, wind and biomass generation increased by 15 percent over the same period.

Like the United States, which generated 32 percent of its electricity from no-carbon sources in 2012, countries in Europe generate most of their no-carbon electricity from nuclear and hydroelectric sources, along with a smaller portfolio of other renewables. There are some exceptions, however. Along with hydroelectric power, almost 30 percent of Iceland’s total net electricity generation came from geothermal sources in 2012, while Denmark generated more than 50 percent of its electricity from wind and biomass.

One comment on “European Nations Say Yes to No-Carbon

  1. “…the full lifecycle of biomass fuels is also considered carbon neutral for the purposes of satisfying these countries’ goals, despite the fact that biomass power plants emit carbon dioxide during operation.”

    The above sentence says it all! Why do we continue to give biomass a free pass when the best available science, including a recent report from the UK’s own Department of Energy and Climate Change says that burning biomass is far from carbon neutral and in fact in many cases releases more greenhouse gases than coal and even natural gas?

    The EIA and EU governments need to stop the folly of biomass and stick to reporting true low carbon energy like wind, solar, and geothermal. Until then, they are just blowing smoke.

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