The Commission communication of 8 March 2022 “REPowerEU: Joint European Action for more affordable, secure and sustainable energy” calls on Member States to swiftly map, assess, and ensure suitable land and sea areas that are available for renewable energy projects, commensurate with their national energy and climate plans, the contributions towards the revised 2030 renewable energy target and other factors such as the availability of resources, grid infrastructure, and the targets of the EU Biodiversity Strategy.
The Commission proposal for a “Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive (EU) 2018/2001 on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources, Directive 2010/31/EU on the energy performance of buildings and Directive 2012/27/EU on energy efficiency” and the “Commission recommendation on accelerating permitting for renewable energy projects and facilitating Power Purchase Agreements” adopted on 18 May 2022 also provide for the identification of ’renewables go-to areas’. These are specific locations, whether on land or sea, particularly suitable for the installation of plants for the production of energy from renewable sources, other than biomass combustion plants, where the deployment of a specific type of renewable energy is not expected to have significant environmental impacts, in view of the particularities of the selected territory.
According to the proposal for a directive, in the identification of go-to areas Member States shall:
- give priority to artificial and built surfaces, such as rooftops, transport infrastructure areas parking areas, waste sites, industrial sites, mines, artificial inland water bodies, lakes or reservoirs, and, where appropriate, urban waste water treatment sites, as well as degraded land not usable for agriculture;
- exclude Natura 2000 sites and nature parks and reserves, the identified bird migratory routes as well as other areas identified based on sensitivity maps and the tools referred to in the next point, except for artificial and built surfaces located in those areas such as rooftops, parking areas or transport infrastructure;
- use all appropriate tools and datasets to identify the areas where the renewable energy plants would not have a significant environmental impact, including wildlife sensitivity mapping.
To support Member States in identifying such “renewables go-to areas” for the rapid deployment of new installations for the production of energy from wind and solar, the Energy and Industry Geography Lab, from May 2022, provides an attractive visual representation of consolidated information on a wide range of relevant energy and environmental factors.
The following datasets are now included in the Energy and Industry Geography Lab:
- Natura 2000 sites
- Nationally designated protected areas
- Ecologically or biologically significant marine areas
- Important bird areas
- Key biodiversity areas
- Underwater noise
- Waste water treatment plants
Other relevant datasets will be added in the future. While Member States are responsible for the identification of the go-to areas, this mapping tool facilitates Member States in their task, by making available relevant datasets that extend across Europe in one single platform.
An explanatory note provides further information on how to use the different data layers for the identification of go-to areas as well as data limitations and knowledge gaps:
Consult the data documentation and metadata with information on data provider, spatial and temporal resolution, and usage conditions for all datasets in the Energy and Industry Geography Lab.
Also available: a quickstart guide and a tutorial.
Please find below a short documentation of the datasets mentioned above with information about data providers and data sources as well as data processing steps.
The Natura 2000 data is available for download from the European Environment Agency.
For EIGL, we used the .gpkg (OGC Geopackage) file. An additional column was created based on the sitecode in order to create a URL to the standard data form at the European Environment Agency. This is an example of such a link.
The type of classification of the Natura 2000 site types is as follows:
- A: SPAs (Special Protection Areas - sites designated under the Birds Directive)
- B: SCIs and SACs (Sites of Community Importance and Special Areas of Conservation - sites designated under the Habitats Directive);
- C: where SPAs and SCIs/SACs boundaries are identical (sites designated under both directives)
The European Environment Agency also provides a dedicated Natura 2000 viewer.
The dataset of nationally designated areas (CDDA) is available for download from the European Environment Agency. This European inventory of nationally designated protected areas holds information about designated areas and their designation types, which directly or indirectly create protected areas. Version 19 covers data reported until March 2021.
For EIGL, we used the .gpkg (OGC Geopackage) file. Tabular information related to
- DesignatedArea (information on nationally designated sites and designated boundaries reported)
- DesignationType (information about designation types and the national and international legislative instruments)
has not been added yet but will be included in the next update.
The data on Important Bird Areas is provided by BirdLife International. It is a collection of data provided by Partners, digitized by the BirdLife Secretariat, or from 3rd parties. The data can be requested on the request page of Data Zone of BirdLife and is displayed on the map search page Data Zone of BirdLife.
The data on Key Biodiversity Areas is provided by BirdLife International on behalf of the KBA partnership. The data can be requested on the from the Key Biodiversity Areas.
The CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity) secretariat provides information about Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas.
The EBSA data was provided through the CBD Secretariat directly. The EBSAs for the Northeast Atlantic have not been finalised by the CBD COP and are not included yet in the dataset.
For underwater noise, two datasets have been used from the European Environment Agency: Input of impulsive anthropogenic sound in Europe Seas, Jan. 2020, and Input of continuous anthropogenic sound in Europe Seas, Jan. 2020. They are available from the European Environment Agency here.
The first dataset represents input of impulsive anthropogenic sound in Europe Seas. Impulsive sounds are typically brief with a rapid rise time, i.e. a great change in amplitude over a short period of time. The main anthropogenic sources of impulsive underwater noise are typically impact pile driving for inshore and offshore construction, seismic exploration with airguns, explosions and sonar systems.
The second dataset represents the input of continuous anthropogenic sound in the European Seas. Continuous anthropogenic underwater noise is found in the entire European marine area and is mainly produced by maritime traffic. As no thresholds for pressure have been agreed yet, even areas of low or infrequent maritime traffic are included as pressures. This dataset uses shipping density as a representation of distribution of continuous underwater noise.
Both TIFF raster file were converted into vector data.
The peatland maps of Europe was obtained from the following journal article which presents, for the first time, a comprehensive peatland map for the whole of Europe:
Tanneberger, F., Tegetmeyer, C., Busse, S., Barthelmes, A. and 55 others (2017): The peatland map of Europe. Mires and Peat, 19(22), 1-17. 10.19189/MaP.2016.OMB.264
The supplementary material includes the raster data which was then converted into vector data.
Information about the reporting related to the urban waste water treatment directive is available at EEA here:
The dataset contains data reported by Member States under UWWTD reporting obligations, mainly on: reported period, agglomerations, urban waste water treatment plants, and discharge points.
For EIGL, we were using the UWWTD GIS shapefile available at the European Environment Agency.