The amount of greenhouse gases saved in the EU due to the use of renewable energy rose by 8.8 per cent from 2009 to 2012, according to new data.
The European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) report said that nearly two thirds of the total savings were due to renewable energy development in Germany, Sweden, France, Italy and Spain.
Data for the study was reported by member states to check progress towards meeting an EU directive that requires the EU as a whole to meet at least 20 per cent of its total energy needs with renewables by 2020, through a series of individual national targets.
Researchers from the JRC looked at how renewable energy had contributed to greenhouse gas emission savings in three sectors: electricity, heating and cooling, and transport.
They found that, combined, these three sectors avoided the emission of the equivalent of 716 metric tonnes of CO2 in 2012, when total emissions reached 4,546 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent.
Renewable electricity contributed the most towards mitigation in 2012, covering 64 per cent of the savings, due to high penetration of wind and solar power. This was followed by renewable heating and cooling at 31 per cent and renewable transport at 5 per cent..
Last October, EU leaders agreed on more ambitious goals for 2030 with a domestic emission reduction target of at least 40 per cent below 1990 levels and increase of renewable energy share of at least 27 per cent and an energy efficiency goal of at least 27 per cent.