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Energy & minerals resources

Introduction

Europe relies on a diverse range of energy resources, both finite and renewable. Since 1990, the EU’s energy intensity has decreased and the use of renewables has strongly increased [1]. In 2012, the share of renewable energy consumed in Europe reached 11%, compared to 4.3% in 1990. Renewable energy sources used within the EU include: hydropower, geothermal, wind energy, solar energy and biomass. Furthermore, 53% of the EU’s energy supply is imported (primarily crude oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear fuels) [2]. To mitigate the impacts of climate change, a decarbonisation of the world’s energy sources must occur. This can be achieved by decoupling economic growth from energy consumption within the EU. This has been observed in recent years due to, in part: the economic recession, increased energy efficiency and the implementation of more renewable energy sources. In addition, a shift to lower carbon energy sources can help achieve the EU’s aims for better energy security [1].

Similarly to Europe’s energy needs, the majority of the EU’s needed minerals and rare earth elements are imported. These substances are vital for a multitude of applications across all areas of industry. Many renewable energy sources rely on these critical raw materials.

Current EU policy

In 2009, a major policy package was adopted and has become binding legislation known as the 20-20-20 targets. By 2020, the ‘climate and energy package' aims to:

The longer term objective is to achieve an 80-95% reduction in Europe's GHG emissions compared to 1990 levels. This is part of the EU’s 7th Environment Action Programme which aims to encourage Europeans to 'live well within the planet's ecological limits' [3].

Securing a sustainable supply of raw materials and energy is a key priority for the EU and is addressed in their ‘Raw Materials Initiative’ and ‘Energy Security Strategy’. Additionally, the EU is developing a more thorough sustainability strategy in which the proportion of waste that is recycled is dramatically increased, as a part of their drive towards a circular economy. Current policy objectives include recycling 65% of municipal waste by 2030 [4].

Future challenges

The major challenges facing the energy and resources scientific community also effect the world and its inhabitants. According to the UN Paris conference (COP21) agreement, policies must be developed further to adapt and mitigate climate change to ultimately achieve ‘greenhouse gas emissions neutrality in the second half of the century’ whilst ensuring sustainable growth [5]. The consequences of not addressing and achieving these goals have substantial impacts for modern society. Some of the major challenges include:

EGU energy & mineral resources research areas

ERE research covers a wide range of disciplines. These include energy sources based on hydrocarbons, biomass, hydropower, nuclear, solar, wind and geothermal, and the associated environmental challenges associated with them. Other relevant disciplines are metals and mining, industrial materials, water quality and supply, and natural sources of pollutants. Integrated research and research dealing with policy are also areas of keen interest to ERE scientists.

Recent EGU papers

Sources:

  1. http://www.eea.europa.eu/soer-2015/europe/energy
  2. https://ec.europa.eu/energy/en/topics/imports-and-secure-supplies
  3. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/action-programme/
  4. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/target_review.htm
  5. http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/da02.pdf

Additionally:


With special thanks to Christopher Juhlin, Professor of Geophysics at Uppsala University, for helping to draft this webpage.

If you have a comment or suggestion, or if you would like more information please email policy@egu.eu.