Things might not be looking too rosy when it comes to saving the environment and preventing catastrophic climate change at the moment. But at least on one side of the Atlantic there seems to be some good news, as it has been reported this week that last year the vast majority of new power added to Europe’s electricity grid came from renewables.
In a clear sign that the continent is shifting away from carbon-emitting fossil fuels, it was revealed that 86 percent of all new capacity installed came from either wind, solar, biomass, or hydro, underpinning the strong commitments made by European nations during the Paris climate talks. This was up on the previous high of the year before, in which renewables accounted for 79 percent of all added power capacity for that year.
Not only that, but for the first time ever, over half of the new capacity added to the grid came from wind, overtaking coal as the second largest form of power capacity after natural gas. It is important to note here, however, that coal does still meet more of Europe’s electricity demand due to the intermittent nature of wind power generation.
Germany, despite its reputation for using massive amounts of coal, is leading the pack when it comes to wind power added to the grid, as 44 percent of all new capacity came from this renewable source. Although plenty of other countries are also pulling their weight, with France and Finland both setting their own records for the number of wind farms built in 2016.
The amount of money that is now being invested across the continent is also increasing, as it went up by 5 percent on the previous year to €27.5 billion ($29.3 billion). This is greatly encouraging, as renewables get cheaper to install it should lead to a massive increase in installation, but there are some underlying worries.
Experts are concerned that with the way the political climate is currently leaning, and hard-won environmental protection laws and protocols being eroded, the current push towards renewables may not be maintained. Europe is currently obliged to cut emissions up until 2020, but when this time frame is met, there is no guarantee that it will be renewed.
Hopefully, by that point renewables will be such an economically sound investment when compared to fossil fuels, the tide will continue to turn. The renewable sector for electricity generation in the United States, for example, already employs more people than oil, coal, and gas combined, meaning that the technology is becoming vastly more economical as time progresses.