The happiest countries in the world are the Northern European one, as the UN confirmed in the 2018 World Happiness Report, Scandinavian countries are still ranked at the top: Finland is first, replacing Norway (now second) followed by Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and The Netherlands.
These countries’ welfare and prosperity are a ticket to the future. The myth of Northern European countries is based on a person-centred vision of modernity, a fair redistribution of resources, and a strong commitment to sustainability. These are the reasons why, when discussing renewable energies, it is to these countries that one should look at, even if this means to break with the past.
One only has to think of Norway, where the conservative led government voted for the sovereign investment to implement the renewable energies’ projects, such as solar and wind. It is a $1 trillion fortune, obtained through the sale of hydrocarbons from the North Sea. Norway is a country that in modern history has always had its wealth tied to oil, and yet its ambition is to register only zero emission vehicles by 2025.
One needs to move further East to find the real leader of green economy Sweden is the most committed to become the first country in the world to run on 100% renewable energies. “Children must grow up in an healthy toxin-free environment,. To fight against harmful substances and forcing those who increase pollution to pay is at the core of our politics”, declared the Swedish PM, Stefan Löfven, at the general assembly of the UN in October 2015. Currently, almost 54% of Swedish energy comes from renewable sources, which is already an incredible achievement for a country populated by 10 million citizens (twice the Norwegian population). Denmark is currently producing so much energy through its wind farms that can afford to sell it to Norway, Sweden, and Germany. Iceland is focusing on the production of geothermal energy, through which most of the houses are already warmed, and that increased in the past few years.
Even though these numbers speak loudly, and the Scandinavian records may be unbeatable at the moment, the general tendency Throughout Southern Europe is moving positively towards green-energies (in lieu of fuel fossils). For instance, the greek island of Tilos in the, well known for tourism, is about to become the first to exclusively rely on renewable sources. Moving West, in the Iberian Peninsula, an record has been announced by The Portuguese Renewable Energy Association (APREN): “the first month of the 21srt century completely supplied by green energy”. Last March, the electrical energy produced in Portugal through renewable sources not only supplied the country’s needs but even hit 103,6% of them (4,812 GWh). As stated by the ARPEN, “an unmatched value in the last 40 years”. The most successful investments are the hydroelectric and wind, together producing almost all the supply of renewable energies for the whole country – although Portugal is still drawing upon fossils sources.
The Portuguese achievement is undoubtedly historic. Even so the neighbouring country of Spain managed to improve its usage of wind energy (Wind was the secound largest source of energy in 2016), as well as being notble for having the largest pumped hydroelectric energy storage. On the continent2018 is going to be a big turning point for Europe. On the 4th of January an historical record was hit, with 22,7% of the European energy needssupplied with 2.128 GWh clean energy. The quantity covered the needs of 160 million families and 61% of industrial needs. On the same day, both Germany and France scored national records : the first, supplying 60,1% of the electric consumption with 925,3 GWh; the second one, 14,6% of the demand with 218 GWh.
Remaining in Southern Europe, Italy is starting to move from its fossil fuel based energy life-style. If Portugal expects to reach complete self-sufficiency through sustainable energies by 2040, it is also true that it has yet to reach the 31%renewables by 2020 target set by Europe by. Meanwhile, Italy has already hit its target with 17% in 2015. Each country must do its bit: the European directive sets specific national targets baring in mind the starting point for each country and its total potential. In the next few years, Italy is hoping to achieve ambitious targets above European targets (such as 28% of renewable energies for total consumption by 2030, and the closure of coal-fired power stations by 2025).
No reason to dance around it: the European one is a positive trend, but it is still slow. This is immediately clear by looking at the EU targets set by The Renewable Energy Directive. The request is for the EU to satisfy at least 20% of its energy needs through renewable energies by 2020, a level to be reached as a sum of national targets. The Next goal is to reach 27% by 2030. There is still hope for the acceleration of this process, based in particular on the latest report by The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). IRENA confirms the positive global trend for the reduction of costs in renewable sources generators, and in particular aeolian and photovoltaic systems. The cost of green energy is therefore more competitive than before, and it is estimated for the price to drop more in the detriment of the market of fossil fuels and in favour of a more concrete possibility of a more green future.