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Renewing the Globe? Europe Leads the Way in Energy Alternatives
(Released April 2012)

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  by Ethan Goffman  


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Other Countries, Other Paths


Other European countries that have been aggressively pursuing renewable energy include Spain, Austria, and the Scandinavian countries. Austria has long been a major player in renewable energy, due in big part to large hydropower installations (European Commission: Austria). In 2009, 68% of its electricity was provided by renewables, compared to 18% for all of Europe (Key Figures). Recently, sunny Spain has taken another route, providing generous subsidies to solar power. Spain briefly becoming the world’s number one solar market in 2009, at which time renewables generated about 24.5 per cent of its electricity. However, as with Germany, the boom ran into problems, as Spain was unable to continue its subsidies (Chu).

Lacking sun, Britain and the Scandinavian countries are working hard to develop wind resources in the North Sea. Denmark’s Vesta has long been the biggest global producer of wind power globally, while Sweden is a major proponent of renewable energy. Indeed, Sweden’s Environment Minister recently stated the goal of becoming “the first country to obtain its energy supply entirely from renewable sources” (Nyheter). He added that some 45% of Sweden’s energy comes from renewable sources and that the country hopes to be 100% renewable by 2050 (Nyheter).
Pelamis Wave Energy Converter
Pelamis Wave Energy Converter on site at the European Marine Energy Test Centre (EMEC) located off the Orkney Islands in Scotland

Not all of Europe has rushed to embrace renewable energy. Poland is notable for its continued reliance on coal, which generates some 85% of its electricity (Wiener), and opposes drastic climate emission reduction measures. Poland does hope to move toward clean coal and also to develop nuclear power (Anonymous: Europe). Many environmentalists, however, believe that coal can never be truly clean, while nuclear faces concerns over waste disposal and how to deal with unlikely, but potentially devastating, disasters.

Go To From North Africa to Scotland: The Quest for a Pan-European Grid

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