Europe: the first green continent?
As the birthplace of green energy, Europe has led the way in this area for many years. Although China appears poised to take the reins, the ambitions stated by the European Union remain unique in the world.
In 2016, renewable energies already accounted for 17% of energy consumed by EU countries, on average. The Winter Package, an action plan adopted by the European Union in 2016, calls for increasing the renewables share to 27% by 2030. In France, renewable energies already supplied 17% of domestic power in 2017. This share rises to 39% in Germany, a country that has converted increasingly to renewables since deciding to pull out of nuclear in 2011. But Denmark is the country setting all the records, with 74% of its electricity generated from green sources. Looking only at solar, Italy has made the most room in its energy mix for this source. As for offshore wind, the United Kingdom stands as the top producer.
Buoyed by these national champions, Europe sits at the top of the heap internationally when it comes to the energy transition. With COP 21, the Juncker plan, the Winter Package and the energy transition law, the time is ripe for investing in clean energies. These investments peaked in 2015 at $286 billion– double the amount invested in power plants running on coal and natural gas.
Europe is also where responsible finance products, such as green bonds, have seen their biggest success. Topping all the rankings, Frankfurt and Paris are now the greenest stock exchanges in the world. However, despite making clear progress, Europe has lost ground to Asia in many fields, with China leading the way.
Asia embodies all the international ambivalence in the face of ecological challenges. The continent encompasses both the worst aspects of energy consumption and the best hopes of innovation.
Asia is the continent that saw the fastest increase in its global energy consumption over the past two decades. Energy use by ASEAN countries nearly doubled between 1995 and 2015. Fossil energies account for 76% of this consumption, which continues to increase every year , according to the International Energy Agency.
As the main engine of Asia’s growth, China is the country that has set every record in Greentech. Pollution records on one hand—at a rate of 10.33 gigatonnes per year, China is by far the top emitter of CO2 in the world. But China also sets records in terms of investing in renewable energies, as the country represents 16% of global investments. The Middle Kingdom is the current leader in producing renewable energies. The country holds a massive lead in photovoltaic solar and wind. According to the GWED, China produced 4% of its electricity from wind in 2017. As for solar, China enjoys an even starker lead with nearly 131 gigawatts of installed capacity. On top of that, China continues to consolidate its advance, with over 56% of the world’s additional solar capacities in 2017 coming from its efforts.
Thanks to these colossal investments, Chinese industrial giants like Goldwind, Trina Solar and Jinko Solar have dominated the global Greentech industry. The green startup network has also seen its widest development in China. With its ambitious plan, including a target of reaching 20% renewable energies by 2030, China can expect to maintain its place at the top of Greentech for many years to come.
GREENTECH, AN ECOSYSTEM THAT CREATES THE CLEAN ENERGY OF The future.
United States: zone of turbulence and headwinds
As the top producer of greenhouse gas emissions per capita (16.6 tonnes per capita, compared with 7.3 in Europe), the United States had a chance to lead the political battle against climate change. However, the Trump administration put a stop to that potential outcome. With its withdrawal from the COP21 commitments and a tax reform containing a partial rollback of the Clean Power Plan, the US government seems to have halted its development of green energies. Paradoxically, renewable energies have by no means been abandoned in the country and are in surprisingly good shape.
The renewable energies sector has grown into a substantial market that now employs twice as many people (370,000 people) than the coal industry (160,000 people). That is how the United States has held onto its spot on the global podium in solar and photovoltaics. Receiving a boost from economies of scale, wind is on track to become the country’s cheapest energy source. Though renewables supply barely 10% of electricity on a national level, that figure climbs to 80% in pioneering states like California . Moreover, many states, such as North Dakota and Iowa, have decided not to heed the federal government and to continue investing in increasingly profitable green energies.
In addition, American companies also intend to spearhead innovations in this sector. For example, behemoths like Google and Apple have publicly set energy savings targets. The two tech giants have promised to reach zero emissions in the near future. Some experts have even claimed that Google is already the world’s biggest buyer of renewable energy. In addition to recycling his rockets, Elon Musk decided to invest considerable sums in futuristic and clean projects. Tesla’s electric cars and Solar City’s fields of solar panels have emerged as the flagships of Greentech in the US.
Guided by its corporations and the dynamic efforts of certain proactive states, the United States continues its march towards a green economy in its own way.
What role do startups play?
Within a sector dominated by private investments and multinationals, green startups have also begun to showcase their ideas. In 2015, Greentech raised $11 billion worldwide – just a drop in the bucket of the green market. Nevertheless, startups in cities like Shanghai, Paris and Tokyo are finding creative ways to improve energy efficiency. Green startups have flourished in San Francisco, and the city is now aiming to run its public transit system on 100% green energy sources by 2045. And although the ecosystem lacks maturity, the innovations developed by these scrappy little companies may provide one of the keys to saving our green planet.
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