The EU has also recently increased its target for the percentage of energy generated by renewables by 2030. Whilst the UK only wanted to raise the target to 30%, a number of countries, including France, argued for the 32%, whilst some feel that the targets could have been increased further (Spain and Italy). Environmental groups have also, understandably, been very critical of the lack of ambition shown by EU leaders in agreeing this target.
At the end of last year I wrote a blog on how a number of corporate giants were attempting to push the EU towards a 35% target for renewable energy generation by 2030; a higher target than what was eventually agreed upon- something that was very promising from the private sector in the wake of the Paris Agreement. The tide is turning towards renewable energy generation- only some continue to drag their heels.
Renewable Energy in Europe
The UK was one of the countries that didn’t want an EU target over 30% by 2030, which is hardly surprising when the current Conservative Party have looked to push fracking and nuclear energy rather than renewable energy in recent years. Plans for fracking, especially in areas that are currently designated as national parks has come under a lot of public pressure, yet it is something that they continue to push for.
Whilst a number of European countries are looking at closing down a number of nuclear power stations, the Conservative UK government are looking to spend £18 billion to build a new nuclear reactor in Somerset with help from French and Chinese financing. Nuclear is a relatively clean fuel to generate electricity with, however there are still very large risks involved in nuclear energy- Fukushima in Japan is a recent example of the dangers of nuclear.
Denmark, Sweden and Iceland have long led the way in terms of renewable energy generation in Europe. The Danish nation has an ambitious goal of running 100% on renewables by 2050- a goal that looks increasingly possible as wind turbines have produced enough energy to satisfy the country’s energy demand for whole days over the last couple of years.
Sweden is another country that has an ambitious goal of soon being entirely powered by renewable energy. Investing in solar and wind (in particular), Sweden is fighting to lead the way and has continued to grow economically whilst reducing its carbon emissions per capita to almost a quarter of the USA, and one-third less than the EU average.
Iceland differs a little to Denmark in Sweden in that a large proportion of its energy comes from geothermal and hydroelectric power. The island nation is situated between two tectonic plates that are moving apart from each other, causing heat to rise and power the country without the need for fossil fuels.
New Research on Renewables and the Role of Climate Change
A recent report by researchers in Ireland, the UK and Switzerland found that, by 2030, Europe would be able to generate 35% of its electricity from solar and wind power alone. The research also found that around two-thirds of electricity in Europe could be comfortable generated by all renewable energy sources without issue to the supply and demand of electricity to people living in the continent.
The research used 30 years of weather data to produce a number of different models under various future scenarios whilst considering the potential impacts of climate change to weather patterns over Europe in the coming decades. The researchers also consider the transmission of energy between countries; the economic power of many on the European continent means that energy can be transferred between countries.
Perhaps most importantly this research shows that, in the face of a changing climate, renewable energy can comfortably manage the energy needs and demands for countries around Europe as they transition away from fossil fuels.
Click here to read the 2018 report in full.
Predicting the Future of Energy Generation in Europe
There are a number of success stories in countries across the European continent in moving to renewable energy even as some countries continue to dig in their heels and continue to choose fossil fuels. Costs are falling and, as this research has shown, renewable energy sources will have the capacity to meet Europe’s energy demand, even as the impacts of climate change come into play.
Right now, Europe is heading in a positive direction with a number of west Europe and Scandinavian countries taking the lead in renewable energy, but there’s so much more that can be done. In an ideal world, countries would look at this research and begin further investing in renewable energy sources as the future of energy supply and away from fossil fuels. The evidence they need to make the right decision is there for them.