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Energy & Minerals Resources

Credit: ‘Grand Prismatic Spring’ by David Mencin, UNAVCO, United States (distributed via


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. This ‘climate and energy package' includes the following targets for 2020:

  • Reducing EU GHG emissions by at least 20% below 1990 levels;
  • Renewable energy sources to make up at least 20% of EU energy consumption;
  • At least 10% of transport energy consumption from renewable energy sources;
  • A 20% reduction in primary energy by improving energy efficiency.

The longer scale 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 for 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:

  • Ensuring the security of supply to the EU for the critical raw materials and energy sources;
  • Smart grids – increasing electricity supply;
  • Establishing a circular economy and a sustainable supply of raw materials and energy;
  • Carbon capture / sequestration technique developments;
  • Increasing Europe's inventory of mineral deposits;
  • Ensuring clean water free of pollutants;
  • Renewable energy storage.

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:




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

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