Greenhouse gas emissions are continuing to rise globally, despite increasing commitments from many countries to reduce their carbon footprints and increase their reliance on renewable energy. The United Nations Environment Programme released a report in November warning that greenhouse gases have not yet hit their peak, and global efforts have so far failed to stop them from rising. Many countries have created zero-emissions targets, but so far few of them have provided concrete plans on how those targets will be achieved.
Despite this news, however, there are still countries and cities that are making considerable strides towards embracing renewable energy sources. In Europe, there are already several zero-emission communities, and a number of countries are well on their way to becoming carbon-neutral.
Scotland will hit 100% renewable energy in 2020
Scotland is considered a world leader in renewable energy and has been meeting or exceeding its targets for years. Its goal for 2015 was to have 50% of its electricity powered by renewables, and the country managed to hit 59% that year. This total rose to 68% in 2017 and nearly 75% in 2018, and the country is currently on track to hit 100% by the end of this year. This success is due in part to the government’s active involvement, declaring a climate emergency and resolving to achieve zero emissions by 2045, sooner than the rest of the UK.
Wind power is the biggest producer in Scotland, generating almost 10 million megawatt-hours (MWh) in the first half of 2019. This alone would be enough to power all of the homes in Scotland and the North of England. The country’s largest wind farm is able to generate enough power for 450,000 homes, and an even bigger farm is on the way. The Seagreen Wind Energy Farm is scheduled to begin construction in 2022 and will be able to produce enough renewable energy for one million homes when completed.
While wind power is the country’s main source of renewable energy, Scotland also uses hydroelectric, hydrokinetic (wave power), geothermal, solar, and biomass. It has shut down all coal plants and currently has only one working gas plant, though two more are planned to be built in the future. While net-zero emissions means that the country can still emit some greenhouse gases as long as it balances them with measures such as planting more trees, Scotland does not intend to use carbon offsets to achieve its goals, meaning it won’t be relying on other countries to cut their emissions.
European communities are already going green
The central German town of Wolfhagen is already generating 100% of its energy from renewables. In 2008, the town set a goal to have all household electricity provided by local renewable energy sources by 2015, and decided to build a wind farm and solar power park. Wolfhagen now generates enough energy from local renewables to cover all of its heat and electricity needs, using a mix of sun, biomass, biogas, and wind.
The Finnish community of Ii is well on its way to hitting 100% renewable energy as well, having cut its carbon emissions by 80% between 2007 and 2015. The town decided in 2012 to take measures to abandon fossil fuels, and no longer uses them to power its houses or town facilities. Instead, Ii relies on ground heat pumps, solar panels, and wood chips. Local companies produce the electricity and wood chips, bringing business to the community along with renewables. The town actually uses only 10% of the energy it generates, selling the rest to other parts of the country. It also has the highest number of charging stations per capita in Finland, and has developed measures to help people commute to the nearby large city of Oulu when electric vehicles may not be able to make the trip. Ii is part of a network of carbon-neutral communities in the country that are committed to becoming more environmentally friendly and energy efficient.
European countries broke renewables records in 2019
In 2019, Denmark generated 50% of its electricity from renewables, consisting of 47% wind and 3% solar. The country’s previous record for wind generation was 43% in 2017. The jump was due partially to the new Horns Rev 3 offshore wind farm that began operations last year and produces enough energy to power the homes of 20% of Denmark’s population.
The UK also set a record in 2019, achieving over 50% renewable energy for the first time. The majority of the UK’s electricity came from wind, solar, and nuclear power. Nuclear power is the source of some controversy, since while it is carbon-negative, the radioactive waste it produces is hardly environmentally friendly. It does, however, contribute to the cause of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
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Germany is making progress of its own. While its 46% renewables record may not be as high as the UK’s, that number doesn’t include any nuclear power, resulting in cleaner energy production overall. Only 17% of the country’s electricity came from nuclear power in 2019, and the country aims to reduce that to 0% by 2022. The goal is for 65% of Germany’s power to be generated by renewable sources by 2030.
The renewable energy market is on the rise
The market for renewable energy generation continues to grow, with experts anticipating a CAGR of 21% between 2019 and 2023. That represents incremental growth of nearly 300 GW worldwide, with EMEA making up about a third of the market. Growth will accelerate over the coming years as demand for renewables continues to rise. Learn more about the renewable energy industry with Technavio’s market research report.