European Union to Exceed Clean Energy Goals

While the United States has so far failed to pass a national renewable energy portfolio standard, countries in Europe are demonstrating just how effective such policies can be at encouraging sustainable business. The 27-member European Union has a goal of deriving 20% of its energy, including electricity as well as fuel used for heat and transportation, from clean sources by 2020. According to the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), the EU is on track to not only meet that target but exceed it. Fifteen countries are expected to surpass their nation-specific renewable energy goals, while only two will fall short.

A statement released yesterday by the EWEA predicts Europe will run on 20.7% renewable energy by the year 2020. The expansion of wind, solar, and other clean energy sources making this possible will also continue to fuel the growth of green jobs and sustainable business. At the same time it will of course contribute to helping Europe meet its climate change goals. The European Union as a whole has pledged to cut greenhouse emissions 20% below 1990 levels by the year 2020.

Further brightening the climate picture is the fact that Europe’s electricity sector is projected to see even greater renewable energy gains than the overall energy output for the region. This is particularly important because the electricity alternative to renewables is often coal, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels. Approximately 34% of Europe’s electricity is expected to come from renewable sources like wind and solar by the year 2020.

European countries that look ready to exceed their renewable energy targets include Spain, Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Greece. Only two countries, Italy and Luxembourg, are set to undershoot their goals—and both plan to make up the difference by importing clean energy from neighboring nations. The most important sustainable business industry in the EU is wind, which is projected to supply more renewable power to the grid than any other source. Other clean energy sources that will help meet the EU goals include, in descending order of importance, hydropower, biomass energy, and solar photovoltaics. The two countries that will meet the largest percentage of their energy demand from wind are Ireland and Denmark, which are slated to produce 36.4% and 31% of their electricity from wind respectively.

Yesterday’s news from the EWEA is great for Europe, and bodes well for jobs in sustainable business across the region. However it should also be encouraging for countries like the United States, where policymakers have considered but not yet moved forward on adopting a national renewable energy standard. If there is any doubt remaining that such standards can be effect engines of growth for sustainable business, the European Union’s success should dispel it. In Europe countries are working together to grow the clean power sector while shrinking their carbon footprints. The rest of the world would do well to take similar action.

Photo credit: Colin Grey