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Impacts of Renewable Energy on European Farmers

Impacts of Renewable Energy on European Farmers

Impacts of Renewable Energy on European Farmers


The EU has set ambitious targets for expanding the use of renewable energies. European agriculture has a great potential to help achieve these targets. At the same time, renewable energies can play a crucial role in the transformation of agriculture, as they provide a new source of income. The project examines the contribution of agriculture to renewable energy production and the impact of this new activity on the farms. Based on this analysis possible development paths for the future are defined. The final report is available for download.

The project examines the following questions:

  • How much renewable energy does agriculture presently produce in the EU, and how much can be expected in the medium term (by 2020), in total and by type of renewable energy?
  • Why do farmers engage in the production of RE, and if they do not, what are the main obstacles to their adoption?
  • What are the organizational, economic and technical impacts of the introduction of renewable energy production on conventional farming activities, for individual farms, and on the surrounding rural economy?
  • What role does RE play in the economy of different types of farms? Under which conditions does RE production bring the highest contribution to farm and rural economies?
  • What are the main barriers to further development and the problems posed by the current regulatory framework? How could this framework be improved to favour the expansion of farmers’ involvement in renewable energy production?

The project team employed a variety of methods. To answer the first question, a comprehensive renewable energy balance for agriculture was assembled for all 27 member states as well as for the EU as a whole. Based on the data of the national renewable energy action plans and modeling by the consortium, these balances were extrapolated up to 2020. The results clearly show that farmers already contribute significantly to the production of renewable energy, but that an enormous potential for further expansion remains.

Core of the project were four in-depth case studies with extensive farm surveys. Drivers and barriers for a more rapid expansion of renewable energies were identified. The team carried out case studies in Spain, Poland, Germany and Austria, comparing in each country a region with a very dynamic development in renewable energy to a region with less dynamism.

Ecologic Institute was responsible for the selection of case study regions and data collection in Germany. In each of the two case study regions, Saarland and Brandenburg, Ecologic Institute interviewed 100 farmers using a web-based questionnaire, as well as phone and face-to-face interviews. Moreover, the survey results were subsequently validated in focus groups.


Wageningen University & Research Centre, Alterra (Alterra), Netherlands
Project ID
agriculture, renewable energies, bioenergy, rural development
Europe, Germany, Austria, Poland, Spain, Brandenburg, Saarland