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Cheaper and Cleaner: Europe’s renewable energy success story

Europe made history over the last six months when it generated more electricity from renewable sources than it did from fossil fuels. Over 40 percent of the electricity used by the EU’s 27 member states came from renewable sources, such as solar, wind, hydro, and bioenergy. In contrast, fossil fuels generated only 34 percent.  

This highlights the incredible success story of Europe’s renewable energy policy. Just five years ago, coal plants generated twice as much electricity as wind and solar; now the opposite is the case. Coal represents just 12 percent of energy production in the EU, while wind and solar provide 21 percent.  

Austria, Spain, and Sweden recently closed their last coal-powered plants, while Portugal’s coal reliance fell by 95 percent. Even Germany, by far Europe’s most populous country, saw a 39 percent reduction in electricity produced from coal. Europe also saw an across-the-board reduction in electricity produced from natural gas.  

Renewables, particularly wind and solar, completely overperformed. Wind and solar power accounted for 64 percent of Denmark’s electricity generation, 49 percent of Ireland’s, and 42 percent in Germany. Not only that: In contrast to claims by critics that renewable energy is undependable, Europe’s board of energy producers found there were no significant issues with consistent supply.  

Not only is renewable energy clean and consistent; it’s also cheap. Poland, a coal-reliant country, saw wholesale electricity prices of 46 dollars per megawatt-hour, while in Germany, thanks to renewable energy, prices averaged 26 dollars per hour.

Why has Europe been so successful in its implementation of renewable energy sources? Experts suggest that the answer lies in starting early and being consistent. The benefits of renewable energy won’t appear overnight; some investment and foresight is required. Furthermore, countries should play to their strengths: Sunny Spain built plenty of solar, while Britain’s consistent offshore gusts pushed it to invest in wind power.

While there’s no catch-all solution to the energy crisis, following Europe’s innovative approach is surely a step in the right direction.  

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