Renewables surge ahead – time for energy ministers to back the winning horse

Press release - April 19, 2012
EU energy ministers should start preparing for ever more renewable power when they discuss long-term energy plans at an informal meeting in Denmark today and tomorrow, Greenpeace said.

Renewables costs are falling rapidly, with electricity from onshore wind turbines down by about 75 percent since 1984 and electricity from solar down 75 percent since 2000.

With renewables booming and nuclear power in terminal decline, energy ministers should back the clear favourite in discussions around the EU 2050 energy roadmap, the environmental group said.

Renewables are rocketing and made up over half of all newly installed electricity capacity in the EU from 2000 to 2011 [1]. Costs are falling rapidly, with electricity from onshore wind turbines down by about 75 percent since 1984 [2] and electricity from solar down 75 percent since 2000 [3].

Meanwhile, nuclear capacity in Europe shrank by eight percent from 2000 to 2011 to only 14 percent of total power generation capacity [4]. Costs for nuclear have consistently risen since the 1970s [5]. Electricity from new French-designed reactors  are predicted to be higher than prices for wind and solar in most locations[6]. This doesn’t take into account the full costs of nuclear liability, long-term waste storage or decommissioning.

The European Commission points to renewables forming the backbone of any future energy system at no extra cost. Its EU Energy Roadmap 2050 predicts the share of renewable energy will rise to at least 55 percent, while for electricity, renewables could meet nearly 100 percent of demand by 2050 [7].

Greenpeace EU energy policy director Frauke Thies said: “Renewables are surging ahead in the technology race. Nuclear power is the old horse at the back of the pack that can only watch the renewables thoroughbred racing past to a two-length lead. It is obvious which horse energy ministers should back for a brighter energy future.”


Ministers will also discuss the ailing European carbon market.

Greenpeace EU climate policy director Joris den Blanken said: “The carbon market is said to be Europe’s ‘flagship’ climate tool, but it is a flagship that’s flooded with excess credits and taking us nowhere. To avoid a titanic loss of face, ministers need to signal a purge of surplus credits that are preventing the market from doing its job.” 


[1] See
[2] According to Bloomberg, prices fell from €200 per megawatt hour (MWh) in 1984 to about €52 per MWh in 2011. See: 
[3] According to the International Energy Agency, prices have fallen by 75 percent to around €200 per MWh today, and projected to decrease to between €80 and €170 per MWh by 2020. See:
[4] See
[5] See[1].pdf [6] Electricity generation costs over the lifetime of the plant based on US Department of Energy cost methodology and data, with capital costs updated to current market prices. See also:
[7] See

Greenpeace EU energy policy director Frauke Thies: +32 (0) 477 790 415 reenpeace media officer Jack Hunter: +32 (0)476 988 584

For breaking news and comment on EU affairs:

Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. Greenpeace does not accept donations from governments, the EU, businesses or political parties.