It’s the policy, stupid…

Did you know that during the first quarter of 2013, Portugal generated three-quarters of its electricity with renewable energy? And that in Germany not only one-fifth of all electricity was generated with renewables but also most of that came from wind and solar?

Last week, US renewable energy expert Paul Gipe published a very important analysis of the penetration of renewable energy into the electricity supply mix in 10 countries. It shows that there are already today some countries in Europe generating 100% of their electricity with renewable energy.

With his article Paul Gipe presented the broad sweep—the panorama—of the role renewable sources of generation play in electricity systems and how that has varied during the past three decades. In order for other countries to take action on increasing their share of renewables and ending their dependency on fossil fuels, it is important to take stock of where they are before they can determine how to get where you want to go. In his article Paul Gipe provides a detailed analysis which I can only briefly summarize here (see also numbers in the table).

Norway produces nearly all its electricity with hydro. Iceland generates three-quarters of its electricity with hydro and one-quarter with geothermal. Both Denmark and Portugal produce nearly one-half their electricity with renewable energy. Portugal generates one-fifth of its electricity with wind energy alone, while Denmark produces nearly one-third of its electricity with wind. Italy and Spain both generate about one-third of their electricity with renewables. Italy produces 17% of its electricity, or half of its total renewable generation from non-hydro resources. Non-hydro resources, such as wind, solar, and biomass, contributes two-thirds of Spain’s total renewable generation. Germany provides about one-quarter of their generation from renewables. Nearly one-fifth of Germany’s electricity is produced by non-hydro resources.

New, or non-hydro resources provide less than 5% of generation in France and the US. The US generated a higher percentage of electricity with renewables in 1983, 14.1%, than it has anytime since in the past 30 years. The total renewable penetration in France remains substantially less than that seen three decades ago. Great Britain generates one-tenth of its electricity with renewables, 90% of that from non-hydro resources, mostly wind.

With this analysis Paul Gipe proves again that countries can, when they choose to do so, generate a very high percentage – if not 100% – of their electricity with renewables. The challenge has never been technical. The problem has always been the political desire for a high percentage of renewable energy in a nation’s generating mix and the consistent implementation of policies that work. Target setting is the first step toward this energy transition. It marks the first point toward success and without it the other steps of goal achievement cannot take place.


Read the full article here.


About Paul Gipe: Paul Gipe consults the World Future Council as a workshop presenter and policy analyst. He has written extensively about renewable energy for both the popular and trade press since 1976, and authored the WFC report Grading North American Feed-in Tariffs. Paul is the Principal of an engineering firm specializing in evaluating wind turbine technology. He has lectured widely on wind energy and how to minimize its impact on the environment and the communities of which it is a part. For his efforts, Gipe has received numerous awards. In 2004, Gipe served as the acting executive director of the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association where he created, managed, and implemented a provincial campaign for Advanced Renewable Tariffs (ARTs). Gipe has written seven books, most recently Wind Energy Basics: A Guide to Home- and Community-scale Wind Energy Systems (Chelsea Green, 2009). He earned his BS in Natural Resources from Ball State University, and attended General Motors Institute of Technology’s Mechanical Engineering program. Paul lives in Bakersfield California.

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013