And according to the new data, the booming green-energy sector has a combined turnover of more than €125 billion, an increase of 15% on the previous year, with sales in the solar PV market overtaking wind power for the first time.
The hugely important milestone was revealed in a European Commission report published today.
The EurObserv’ER paper, ‘The State of Renewable Energies in Europe’, found solar photovoltaic installations in Europe accounted for three-quarters of all new PV capacity worldwide and the sector created more new capacity than any other renewable electricity source in 2010.
The renewable energy sectors in all 27 European Union countries together employ more than 1,144,000 people, a 25% increase on the 2009 figure of 912,220.
The top employing sector is solid biomass with more than 273,000 jobs followed by photovoltaic and wind power with respectively 268,110 and 263,145 jobs estimated for 2010.
Business in the PV sector surged across the EU which led to a 50% increase in job numbers and in countries such as Germany, France and Italy, job numbers expanded by more than 70%.
In the UK, 31,700 people are employed in the renewable energy industry with 9,200 jobs created and maintained by the wind energy industry, 5,000 in the solar PV sector, 900 in solar thermal, 250 in small hydropower, 50 in geothermal, 1,500 in ground-source heat pumps, 6,000 in biogas, 5,300 in biofuels, 1,500 in renewable municipal waste and 2,000 in solid biomass.
Germany still holds a huge lead over its nearest rivals in the jobs league with more than twice as many jobs as in France and over three times as many as in Italy. Germany also leads Europe for sales and its economic pulling power is slightly below that of Italy, France and Sweden put together.
The research report also claims the current solar PV targets are “seriously understated” and grid parity could occur in some countries before 2020.
However, the market for solar thermal technology shrank in 2010, which was blamed on a slowdown in the construction industry and the lucrative returns offered by solar PV.
The report authors say they believe the thermal market would have bounced back in 2011 with the introduction of new binding policies.
The UK rates near the bottom of the geothermal league table, which excludes ground source heat pumps, with no new installations reported in 2010.
However, the UK has overtaken Italy to grab third spot in the European wind power list.
The report stated: “The third millennium’s first decade finished on a high note for renewable energies. Renewable energy-sourced primary energy consumption sky-rocketed during 2010 to 172.5 Mtoe, which is an 11.3% leap on 2009, equating to an additional contribution of almost 17.5 Mtoe.
“Several factors came into play to achieve this result. The particularly long and harsh winter increased heating needs and so boosted renewable energy-sourced primary energy consumption.
“It was also a good year for rainfall, with hydropower output outmatching its 2009 performance.
“On the other hand, this growth is also structural. It can be explained by programmed investments made in production capacities (thermal and electricity), extending power grids and heating networks and households’, institutions’ and industries’ investments in renewable energy technology.”
It added: “Part of the growth in renewable primary energy consumption is due to the significant step-up in renewable-sourced electricity production.”
Only 12 of the EU 27 countries will have achieved their respective targets set by the first Renewable Energy Directive in 2001 – they were Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain. The UK was described as an “also ran”.
William Gillett, head of the Renewable Energy unit within the Executive Agency for Competitiveness and Innovation at the European Commission, said: “2010 was momentous in the evolution of the renewable energy market in Europe, measures were adopted by Member States to implement the Renewable Energy Directive and the first results can now be seen, despite the difficult economic climate.
“Renewable energy in the EU has show a growth of +11.3% between 2009 and 2010. Even though factors such as a cold winter and a high level of rainfall have surely helped, this figure highlights the positive impacts of support policies and additional investments by market players.”
The report’s authors also calculate the European Union is ahead of the energy trajectory mapped out in the National Renewable Energy Action Plans (NREAPs). Other key results, include:
* In 2010 the overall EU-27 renewable energy share accounts for 12.4% of overall gross final energy consumption, as against 11.5% in 2009, which amounts to a 0.9-point year-on-year increase compared to 2009.
* The 2009-2010 growth of the renewable energy share of overall gross final energy consumption is related to a bigger gross consumption of final energy from renewable sources: 145 Mtoe (against 131.6 Mtoe in 2009) for a gross final energy consumption of 1170.7 Mtoe (against 1146.3 Mtoe in
* From 2009 to 2010, gross consumption of final energy from renewable sources increased by 10.2% (+ 13.4 Mtoe), as against to a 2.1% increase (+ 24.4 Mtoe) of the overall gross final energy consumption.
* Contributions to the renewable energy growth can be found in the increase in final consumption of solid biomass for heating due to a long winter, but also the increase of renewable electricity technologies (hydropower, electricity from biomass, wind power and solar power (mainly PV).
EU countries must produce an extra hundred Mtoe of final energy from renewable sources to achieve the 2020 target of 20% of renewable energies in the EU-27 final energy gross consumption, which equates to an extra annual average of 10 Mtoe of final energy from renewable sources.