Europe’s energy transition: 2012 numbers

The greatest energy story in the early 21st century is the necessary move to renewable energy. Over the last few weeks initial data on electricity production from renewable sources in Germany, Italy and Spain for the year 2012 has surfaced, giving a snapshot of the energy transition (energiewende) in these three nations. In short: Germany has hit 22% renewables, Italy 28% and Spain 32%, as a portion of electricity production.

Please note that these numbers are portion of electricity production and not demand. My earlier reporting on Solar Server provided numbers for Germany and Italy as a portion of demand. As Germany is a net exporter and Italy a significant importer of electricity, looking at renewable energy production as a portion of demand makes Germany look better and Italy not quite as good; regardless Italian numbers are still higher than German, due largely to the larger amount of hydroelectric generation in Italy.

The German numbers are based on solar PV, wind, biomass, hydro and municipal waste. The Italian numbers include wind, solar PV, geothermal and hydro, and the Spanish numbers include solar PV and CSP (together 4.3% of total generation), wind, hydroelectricity and “renewable thermal”, which I am guessing is biomass.

Particularly striking is that renewables supplied 39.5% of Spanish electricity generation in December 2012. And no, contrary to warnings by fossil fuel and nuke apologists the sky did not fall, and I have found no reports of associated blackouts.

I will note that I do not have final 2012 numbers on Czech Republic, which has around as much solar electric capacity per capita as these three nations, nor do I have numbers from Scandinavia. Renewable energy as a portion of electricity generated appears to be even higher in Denmark (34% from wind alone), and particularly high in Sweden as a portion of total energy use. If anyone reading this has these numbers, please feel free to share them.

So far the takeaway is this: The energy transition is progressing well, and proving that European grids can remain stable even with high penetrations of wind, solar and other renewable energy sources.



  1. For Danish 2011 numbers, see this later post (courtesy of Paul Gipe and Wind-Works):

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