European Union

Making policy for climate’s sake

Europe is the land where climate policy has been explicit. Seeking to lead the world in terms of climate mitigation policy, it has integrated policy across many, varied states, and its nations have developed and implemented ambitious policies of their own. The challenge in Europe is to continue providing leadership in the face of an economic crisis, while accounting for national differences in outlook and policy.


These graphs show the changes in emissions, emissions drivers, and policy in the Power sector in the EU


Emissions Emissions and generation in the EU27

Emissions intensity fell fast enough that emissions declined overall, even though electricity generation grew.


    Emissions Drivers Power sector variables and impact on average emissions factor in the EU27

    During the 1990s, increases in coal and natural gas efficiency and growing nuclear output drove down grid emissions intensity. In the 2000s, the fuel mix shifted away from coal and toward other sources, especially renewable energy. The efficiency of coal plants fell in the 2000s, possibly due to increased sulfur and other pollution controls.


      Policy Renewables targets

      The EU set, and narrowly missed, ambitious renewable energy targets for 2010 for the EU15. For 2020, the EU has set an even more ambitious renewable energy target for the expanded EU27 of 20% of total energy consumption, which translates to 34% of electricity generation from renewable sources.

        • As EU began to liberalize and integrate its energy market, low gas prices drove switching from coal generation to gas generation. EU emissions limits were established for industry and energy facilities. EU renewable energy leadership grew while nuclear power and hydro generation increased across the decade.

          • Policy Barriers

            • Liberalization and integration of EU’s internal energy market commenced in second half of decade with First Energy Package (96/92/EC—electricity; 98/30/EC—gas)
            • Regulation of pollution from power plants increased
              Large Combustion Plant Directive (88/609/EEC) limits on CO₂, NOx, and SOx
              1996 Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive (96/61/EC) instituted a comprehensive permitting regime for power plants to cover all types of pollution
          • Underlying changes

            • Restructuring of eastern European economies closed inefficient coal fired power plants in the early 1990s (EEA 2011)
            • Low gas prices drove switch from coal- and oil-generation to gas generation (EEA 2011)
            • Effciency increased across all types of fossil fuel generation (EEA 2011)
            • Increase in generation from nuclear and hydro generation despite rapid slow-down in capacity deployment (Eurostat)
            • Europe became a significant source of early (non-hydro) renewable energy development
        • Continued energy market liberalization coupled neighboring energy markets and unbundled the power sector as EU aimed for a Single Market by 2014. The EU took global leadership in policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, establishing an Emissions Trading System, setting renewable energy targets, and taking a market lead in renewable energy sources. At same time, several Member States faced difficulties setting renewable support levels.

          • Policy Barriers

            • Energy market liberalization continued, targeting a Single Energy Market for electricity and gas by 2014
              Second Energy Package (2003/54/EC; 2003/55/EC) furthered competition and gave consumers choice of energy supplier
              Third Energy Package (2009/72/EC; 2009/73/EC) required separation of ownership in generation and transmission network assets
            • Under Renewable Energy Sources Directive (2001/77/EC), Member States set renewable electricity targets. Member states required to submit plans on how targets would be met
            • Emission Trading Scheme commenced in 2005 (2003/87/EC, amended 2009/29/EC)
              First Phase (2005-2007)
              Allowance prices crashed in 2006 due to oversupply as allowances were non-transferable to Second Phase
              Second Phase (2008-2012)
              Allowance prices fell and remained low as a response to the economic recession driven fall in emissions
              Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein joined the ETS
            • Combined Heat and Power Directive (2004/8/EC) for promotion of cogeneration took effect in late 2000s
            • Regulation of pollution continued under the Large Combustion Plant Directive (2001/80/EC) and the IPPC (2008/1/EC)
          • Underlying changes

            • Recession 2008-2009
            • Continued increase in electricity demand across EU (EEA 2011)
            • Energy security increased in political importance in some Member States
            • Gas given more attention as potential key role in energy future in Member States due to cheaper fuel and more accessible technologies—e.g.,
            • Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) in late 2000s and a possible shale gas revolution in next decade
            • Europe a leader in renewable energy development and deployment
              Wind deployment far exceeded deployment of other technologies due to existing expertise, technology maturity and resource availability
              Rapid price reductions in wind and solar systems