My interest in social and cultural politics extends from my interest in genealogy and history and how they project into today's societies.
America Takes a Backward Step
I was appalled to hear that America will start to increase coal production in preference to switching to green energy. This is unlike Europe, who are doing the reverse and investing in renewable energy rather than being dependent on fossil fuels.
America Turns its Back on Renewables
USA vs UK Policy on Coal Production
67% of America’s electricity generation in 2016 was from burning coal.
In contrast, UK government policy since the 1980s is to reduce coal production, leaving 200 years of coal reserves in the ground; which to me, as someone who is not a natural green, almost seems like a waste of good natural resources.
However, I do find it magnanimous that, unlike some countries including Australia, China and America, Britain is turning its back on coal reserves in preference for cleaner energy and a healthier environment.
- In 1990, 67% of Britain’s electricity was produced from coal.
- In 2014, it was 30%.
- By 2016, it was down to just 22%.
- In 2017, it was averaging at about 2% (with the last coal power station scheduled to be closed in 2025).
I am sceptical of some of the global warming claims. I think climate change (includes nature as well as human impact) is a more appropriate label; albeit the issues are just as real, and we still need worldwide action to better protect our planet and the environment.
I'm Not a Natural Green
I'm not a green fanatic. It's not in my nature, and I like my home comforts too much.
- I find recycling household waste an inconvenience
- I haven't yet replaced all the old tungsten light bulbs around our home with more energy efficient lighting.
In the UK, the penalty for not recycling household waste is £1,000 ($1,500). We’re required to put different types of waste into different boxes for weekly collection. Not having room in our kitchen for all the recycling boxes, I’ve built a wooden bin outside our kitchen backdoor for storing them. I wouldn’t mind quite so much except for during the winter months, it's rather inconvenient letting cold air in each time I open the backdoor to put waste out.
Although it does add to the electricity bill, I am still quite wasteful around the home by leaving things on which I could easily switch off. Albeit thanks to the energy usage monitor I use (a precursor to the smart energy meters), I am aware of where I and my family are wasting electricity. It does make us more energy concise, so we are beginning to switch things off more often.
The smart energy meters, currently being rolled out to every home in the UK by 2020 for free, comes with a display unit that sits in your living room; making it perfectly clear to you where you're using electricity and gas, and how much it's costing you.
Free Smart Meters For Every UK Home By 2020
In spite of not being a natural green, I can’t help but notice the positive impact of green policies, and I have become increasingly impressed with the great achievements being made across Europe.
For example, Bristol (where I live) and other counties in England have now contributed zero waste to landfill, e.g., all recyclable household waste is now recycled, and non-recyclable waste is burnt to produce electricity.
In recent years, I have become keenly interested in what Europe and the rest of the world is doing to become energy efficient. Having had my eyes opened to what can be achieved if the political will is there, I am disappointed that many industrialised countries around the modern world are dragging their feet. Especially when Europe has proven through its actions how green energy can create new employment opportunities and boost economic growth.
Therefore, I am proud that Europe is leading the way, and in this article I aim to highlight some of the European green polices and achievements as a showcase of what is possible when the political will is there.
Europe’s 2010 Vision
The EU’s energy vision originally launched in 2010 is straightforward enough.
A simple plan to meet or exceed specified targets of renewable energy in a specific time frame.
- 20% by 2020
- 30% by 2030
- 80% by 2050
The EU's 2030 Green Energy Targets
Europe Already Ahead of Schedule
Since the launch of its green and renewable energy strategies in 2010, Europe has been beavering away to make our planet a greener and safer place to live. So much so that several European countries are already producing near 100% of its energy from renewable sources, e.g., Germany, Denmark and Scotland. Even Britain exceeded its 2020 target of 20% in late 2016.
EU Takes Action While USA is in Denial
Europe’s Renewable Energy Growing Exponentially
There doesn’t seem to be a single source of data presented in simple terms to make direct comparisons. There’s a wealth of technical data available, but much of it tends to be in units of power rather than percentages, which makes it more difficult for a layperson like me to digest.
Therefore, I’ve compiled some data from just three European countries to give a glimpse of the rapid growth of green renewable energy in recent years.
Percentage of Electricity Generated From Renewable Energy
The figures above are rather patchy and over simplified, but it does give a flavour of the quiet revolution in renewable energy that is sweeping across Europe.
The other difficulty in trying to pinpoint accurate data for comparison is the rapid growth in renewables in countries like Scotland and Germany; even within just one year, the increase can be dramatic.
For example, Germany’s renewables in 2014 climbed from less than 27% to over 30%, and Scotland’s renewables increased by over 15% between 2014 and 2015.
Denmark to Become 100% Renewable Energy
Even Britain, with a conservative government who are not renowned for being green, have exceeded their European target three years ahead of schedule.
There are still plenty of projects in various stages of planning and construction to further increase green energy production. One of the more ambitious plans, recently approved by the government, is the proposed Severn Barrage Tidal Power Generator, which when built could meet up to 5% of Britain’s energy needs.
Unfortunately (unlike Germany), England and France still consider nuclear power to be clean, so it’s not all good news.
Smart Power Grid UK
UK Home Owners Paid to Produce Electricity
I know similar schemes exist across the world (even in America), and in Germany it’s been key to their green revolution, although I don’t know how the schemes differ from country to country.
All I know is that in Britain, by having solar panels on your roof, you get paid generously for every kw of energy generated, regardless to whether it gets used, and then you get paid a further premium for any surplus electricity feed into the national grid.
The video below explains how the scheme works. I would be interested to hear in the comments on how this compares with any such schemes in your country.
UK Solar Feed-in Tariff Explained
I’m rather proud of Bristol (where I live) and its green achievements in recent years. Bristol is governed by Labour with the support of the Greens; two left wing socialist parties who are green by nature. Under their administration, the green achievements in Bristol includes:
- Becoming the Green Capital of Europe in 2015 (a prestigious award).
- Achieving zero waste to landfill; all waste that can be recycled is, and everything else is burnt to generate electricity.
- Producing green gas from human sewage; part of which is used to run a fleet of 100 public buses with the rest being fed into either the gas or electricity national grid.
Small power plants in Bristol and elsewhere in the UK that produce gas from feeding anaerobic bacteria on waste have (dependent on greatest need) the option to either:
- Feed the gas into the gas national grid for domestic heating.
- Generating electricity to fed in the national grid for the supply of electrical power.
In this respect, when the National Grid control and command centre asks for electricity, it can be supplied on demand. Otherwise the gas can be pumped into the gas national grid, and if not immediately needed, piped to storage tanks in Northern England.
Every part of Europe plays its role in energy production. One issue with renewable energy is finding ways of storing surplus energy, which can then be made available when needed.
Some systems already exist, like the Wale’s Electric Mountain low cost solution, which has been operational since 1984. Although to meet future needs there are countless schemes and technologies being researched and developed across Europe for efficient and cost effective storage of energy.
I’m particular impressed with Scotland because although they are sitting on huge reserves of fossil fuels, the socialist government is pushing for Scotland to be green.
Scotland is ruled by a very progressive left wing socialist government who are intent on investing in green policies in preference to fossil fuels.
Scotland is sitting on:
- 62.4% of Europe’s oil reserves.
- 12.5% of Europe’s known gas reserves.
- 69% of the UKs coal reserves.
Renewables in Scotland
Just like Scotland, Germany is one of the most innovative and successful countries worldwide for producing green renewable energy.
Nuclear power accounted for a quarter of Germany’s energy needs in 2010. However, following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 and Japan’s nuclear accidents in 2011, Germany has now all but stopped nuclear power production. All remaining nuclear power stations are scheduled to be decommissioned by 2022.
Germany's Renewable Energy Revolution
Main Sources of Renewable Energy Across Europe
Most of the production of renewable energy in Europe comes from:
- Wind power
- Wave power
- Tidal power
- Hydro-electric power
- Solar power
- Biomass e.g. producing energy from bacteria eating waste
- Biofuels, and
- Micro systems, e.g., solar and geothermal energy
2016 Germany Meets 93% of its Energy Needs from Renewables
Energy Sharing Across Europe
Each country within Europe has its own national power grid, which is pretty impressive in itself. The National Grid command and control centre in Britain constantly monitors electricity usage across Britain 24/7, and will take power from wherever it’s available to pipe it to wherever it’s needed at a moment’s notice.
However, to ensure continuity of power you need it to be available when needed. One of the main problems with renewable energy is that it's supply tends to be less predictable than conventional power stations, e.g., wind and sun. Most of the wind is in northern Europe while the vast bulk of the sun is in southern Europe.
To overcome these issues, Europe is at an advanced stage of connecting all the individual national grids into one gigantic pan-European grid; called the Energy Union. So in future surplus electrical power can be directed across Europe to wherever and whenever it’s needed.
European Wide Energy Union
European's Solutions to Energy Storage
Part of the European strategy for sharing surplus energy is storage and distribution to meet demand wherever and whenever required. This is particularly important in that wind and solar power is so dependent on the weather that it is variable and unpredictable.
Numerous innovative solutions are being researched, developed and implemented across Europe, including battery storage; although I think hydropower offers some of the simplest and well tested solutions.
A number of hydroelectric power plants already exist across Europe, in places like the Alps, and the Electric Mountain in Wales (mentioned above). These provide an invaluable service to help maintain durability and resilience to the supply of energy.
To make this service event more resilient one of the more recent projects under construction is the connection of Norway to the pan-European energy network (Energy Union); taking advantage of its natural green and renewable hydropower energy resources. Once Norway is integrated into Europe’s energy grid it could have the potential to supply up to 50% of Europe’s additional energy needs during times of peak demand.
Norway’s Energy Storage for Europe
Europe as a whole is committed to being world leaders in renewable energy, and aims to be at least 80% (if not 100%) self-sufficient in green energy by 2050.
As with the UK, Scotland, Denmark and Germany, success across Europe in meeting these targets is remarkable. It clearly demonstrates anything is possible if the political will is there.
I just wish that America, China and other world leaders would take a leaf out of Europe's success at becoming green, and follow in our footsteps.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
Arthur Russ (author) from England on May 26, 2018:
Thanks for the feedback Esoteric; greatly appreciated. Its given me a good reason to have another closer look at current data and trends when I get spare time; which will most likely be over the winter months when I'm less busy in the Garden.
Scott Belford from Keystone Heights, FL on May 25, 2018:
I track America's carbon footprint to see if Trump's actions are making it worse. You can find it about 2/3 down. Right now it shows a huge uptick, that is just a one month data point that has been annualized. It should normalize as more months come in.
Arthur Russ (author) from England on May 24, 2018:
Yes, it is tragic, not only is America missing out on a golden opportunity to be a major player in the industries of the future, and all the benefits that brings in employment, trade and investment, but its putting the rest of the world at risk because America’s inaction is negating a lot of the good that it being done Globally e.g. while the rest of the world are striving to lower Carbon emission America is actually increasing their Carbon emissions; or at least they were when I checked last year, and I haven’t seen anything to suggest that much has changed.
Scott Belford from Keystone Heights, FL on May 23, 2018:
Being in last place on the renewable energy front due to President Trump's stupidity is going to cost Americans and American industry billions annually in the next 40 years
Arthur Russ (author) from England on June 01, 2017:
Syria, Nicaragua and the USA are the only three countries in the world not committed to a green future. By their action, it seems to me that America is suggesting they are right and the rest of the world is wrong?
Arthur Russ (author) from England on April 22, 2017:
Great News (as shown in the video below); the UK had its first ever ‘coal free’ day since the industrial revolution, on Friday 21st April 2017.
One whole day where our electricity needs were met without the need to burn any coal; thus putting the UK well on track of completely phasing out coal by 2025.
First Ever 'Coal-free' Day for UK: - https://youtu.be/CNYcGFlbTqU
Arthur Russ (author) from England on April 11, 2017:
Thanks Credence2 for your summery of the political situation in America, fuelled by greed and short-sightedness. I just hope that the situation changes for the better in America sooner rather than later; although there doesn’t seem to be any sign of that.
In contrast Britain is rapidly reducing its dependence on coal in favour of renewable energy; in spite of the fact that we still have 200 years supply of coal left untouched in the ground; and Germany is closing all its nuclear power stations and switching to being entirely dependent on green renewable power.
credence2 on April 10, 2017:
Arthur, the problem is that the conservatives here are penny wise and pound foolish. We all know that we are being presumptuous to assume that the Earth have limitless resources and can absolve any level of continuous abuse without there being consequences to delicate ecosystem that sustains life.
Clinging to industries that are contrary to that principle is the outcome of greed from those that stand to make considerable profit promoting petroleum, coal.
The current administration wants to gut the EPA as being an unnecessary infringement on business activity. So, that means that they are free to pollute at the scales in the past without being held accountable?
Conservatives say that coal is cheaper, but it is not cheaper than natural gas. But the issue is not so much cheaper as when one looks at the big picture, sustainable is more important. And as it turns out, even a robin is smart enough not to foul its own nest.
You Brits have to wonder what kinds of people are running things here?
Arthur Russ (author) from England on February 10, 2017:
Thanks Jo, I do hope things do eventually change in America. I guess the difference here is that European counties tend to have more control over their industries than the USA, making it easier for governments to make policy changes; whether they are for the benefit of the economy, society, the environment and or for political reasons.
Jo Miller from Tennessee on February 10, 2017:
The simple answer is that the fossil fuel industry has enormous power in this country. The latest election, however, has galvanized the progressive base and there may be significant backlash against this in the coming years.
Arthur Russ (author) from England on February 08, 2017:
RJ: It’s not all about costs and profits in the supply chain, and the cost to the tax payer (USA) or consumer (EU). It’s also the cost to the environment and on health.
In this respect climate change is the main driving force behind government policies in Europe e.g. the impact on the environment of burning fossil fuels. Although health is also an issue e.g. fumes from cars and burning coal etc.
Although, with the cost of further research and development, technologies to burn coal more cleanly could be developed; there are still the environmental issues of fracking to extract oil and gas.
In moving away from oil for transportation, the sale of new 100% electric cars has been doubling year on year in the UK since 2013, and now stands at 1.3% of all new cars sold e.g. 3,500 sold in 2013 compared to 85,000 in 2016. Also, in Bristol, 100 buses will soon be in operation that runs 100% on gas produced by anaerobic bacteria that feeds on human sewage.
However, my main concern is with nuclear. It only takes one major accident to contaminate a large area for generations; and accidents do happen e.g. the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 and Japan’s nuclear accidents in 2011. It’s why Germany has abandoned its nuclear program, and will be decommissioning its last nuclear plant by 2022. In fact only half of EU countries use nuclear power stations; with Britain unfortunately being one of them.
In the UK 13% is added to the consumers utility bill for gas and electricity (government policy) to pay for the cost of renewable energy. However, part of that 13% is used to pay for the cost of making homes more energy efficient, which in the long run cuts the amount of electricity and gas used by home owners. I’ve taken advantage of that by having my cavity walls insulated for free; which in turns has cut my heating bill.
As Chris pointed out, although nuclear power stations are a cheap source of energy when they're operational; they are expensive to build, and expensive to decommission. So it can be a false economy. Whereas although renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power are also expensive to install they are getting cheaper and more efficient; so the cost of replacing them after 25 years will be significantly less. Currently the return on investment for solar power is about 9% per year over a 25 year period. Other forms of renewable energies, such as wave, tidal, marine, hydroelectric, and biomass power systems can have a much greater return on investment over a far longer period.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 07, 2017:
Europe is taking the lead in the very important matter--important to the whole world. Like you, I'm hoping that other countries would be as passionate about going green.
CHRIS57 from Northern Germany on February 07, 2017:
RJ: The whole comparison scheme is a little more tricky. As i wrote in a comment above, the US as a whole typically uses electricity at half of the efficiency level of Europe.
To make figures comparable: A typical production firm in Germany will use some 1,5% of its revenues to pay the electricity bill. Same type of company in the US will need double kWh to manufacture. Then we add the power outage issue, grid stability. Do you agree to 1 day per year? So one day per year will halt production output with 1/250 working days fractional impact. That is 0,4%. As this last figure is related to revenues, we may add this to the 1,5% value of the German firm and then double. Gets us to 1,9 x 2 = 3,8%.
Put the 3,8% x 0,12 USD into relation to the 1,5% x 0,35 USD. Result is:
Electricity cost in the US is 87% of German electricity cost. The UK cost level will easily outrun the US, they have similar grid stability.
Concerning nuclear power: Me think the production is underrated because the tear down cost and waste disposal cost is largely omitted. Just double production cost for nuclear and you get closer to reality.
It is true that government intervention, energy politics play the trick. It is not the taxpayer paying though, but the consumer. The US subvention model is probably not liked, because it is pure taxpayers money that is used for equipment manufacturing subsidies.
Ralph Schwartz from Idaho Falls, Idaho on February 07, 2017:
The average cost of electricity in the USA is $0.12 kWh
The average cost of electricity in Germany is $0.35 kWh, $0.20 in the UK, $0.30 in Spain, $0.41 in Denmark, and $0.19 in France
One quarter of Europe's power comes from Nuclear Power and over half of what the EU calls low-carbon electricity comes from nuclear. Since the average cost of a kWh produced by nuclear is $0.0211, it would seem that the collective aggregate costs of all other power sources (green ones included) are much higher.
I'd personally like to see the U.S. move to more nuclear, since it beats any other power source from a pure cost of production standpoint.
Alternative energy sourcing options are growing, as you've noted, however they are still very costly. It gives rise to the question of whether Europe would be using them at their current levels if the law didn't force people to go that route. By government intervention, and virtually removing coal as an option, the energy market isn't free and therefore it's difficult to make a fair comparison to the U.S. where less restrictive laws exist.
Arthur Russ (author) from England on February 07, 2017:
Thanks for the info; most helpful. Likewise in the UK the subsidies for the cost of renewable energies and other green energy policies is passed onto the consumer through increased fuel bills.
In Britain the green levies on our domestic fuel bill has increased from 4% in 2010 to 13% in 2017. The average house holder now pays an additional 130 euros ($140) per year on their fuel bill; in Scotland it’s an additional 43 euros ($46) per year on average.
On the positive side; that additional 13% green levy on fuel bills also pays for grants to householders to make their homes more energy efficient; and therefore save money on the fuel bills by using less energy on heating and hot water.
In the UK householder can get up to 8,800 euros ($9,400) in grants provided they install energy efficiency measures through government approved schemes; that includes:-
• Free cavity wall and loft insulation
• Free or heavily subsidised replacement boilers for hot water and central heating; provided their old boiler is more than ten years old, and
• In some cases, subsidised insulation for double glazing windows and doors.
When these schemes were introduced we already had our loft (roof space) well insulated, and hadn’t long had a new combi-boiler for heating and hot water installed; but I did take advantage of the grants to get our cavity walls insulated for free.
So although we are paying 13% on our fuel bills to pay for the green revolution; with the new combi-boiler and additional insulation, my domestic fuel consumption has been slashed by over a third in recent years.
The UK government is also rolling out a programme to install a free smart metre in every home by 2020. The Smart Metres make home owners aware of where and how they are using their electricity and gas in their home; and consequently encourages people to use energy more wisely.
CHRIS57 from Northern Germany on February 07, 2017:
The topic of your essay is the comparison of the US with Europe. Well, from my understanding there is a fundamental difference in subsidizing and promoting of renewable energies.
US: IMHO manufacturing of renewable systems is subsidized, no support to sell and market the power production.
EU: IMHO no support for manufacturing but guaranteed selling prices for power, combined with tax breaks.
In Europe this policy created tasty business cases and surging demand for renewable systems. The downside is that subsidized selling prices must be financed, the more subsidies, the higher the financing. So here in Germany we are now at some 7 cent/kWh that every consumer of electricity pays to come up for the renewable subsidies. Drives average electricity costs to 25 .. 30 ct/kWh.
Now a rough ride through business cases, depreciation, specific investments:
Windpower in Germany:
Typical specific investment: 1.600 Euro/kW
Energy harvest: 2.800.. 2.900 kWh/kW/a
Typical size: 3 MW , means some 5 million investment per windmill
Guaranteed pay: 8 cent/kWh for 20 years
Business Case RTI: 9.. 10% with 20% equity investment, no special tax breaks. Linear depreciation for 20 year period.
Typical investment: 1.100 Euro/kW
Energy harvest: 900 kWh/kWp
Typical size: 100 kWpeak, means 110.000,- investment per system
Guaranteed pay: 10 cent/kWh for 20 years
High tax breaks: some 50% after startup. 50% depreciation, 2,5% annual for 20 years
Business Case RTI: 35% before tax breaks, 20% equity.
Include tax breaks and personal tax hikes and you get a free ride. With 50% tax break and some 40% tax hike, i have the choice of either carrying the money to my favourite tax authorities or invest 20% as equity into solar power. Guess what i did in the past years and do. Always looking for barn roof of dairy farms
This is the situation here in Germany. A typical home solar power system would be in the range of 10 kW, Investment some 15.000,- Euro. All other conditions are same.
Arthur Russ (author) from England on February 06, 2017:
Thanks once again for your thought provoking feedback; I can see what you mean. Although we have similar schemes in the UK, British people have been slow on the uptake; so unlike Germany we are a long way off from reaching saturation point.
For a home owner in the UK, initial insulation of solar power is expensive but the return on the investment is about 9% per annum; and under the scheme you are guaranteed payment for generating electricity for a 25 year period, so the last 14 years is pure profit.
I haven’t gone down that route myself because of the initial expense, but if your house roof faces south you can get generous grants to pay for the installation. A friend of mine did this about six years ago, and he’s already recouped most of his initial investment. Also, in Bristol (where I live) there’s a not-for-profit community group that pays for the insulation of solar power panels on roofs of commercial buildings in exchange for a share in the profits so that they can expand their scheme.
I’ve added a video in the section on Britain in my article that explains the UK system, which I assume is similar to Germany’s; I would be interested to know how this compares with Germany.
Also, a small but growing number of farmers across the UK are investing in predominantly wind power generators to sale electricity to the national grid; as a secondary and profitable income.
Not being naturally green by nature I wouldn’t be adverse to coal being in the mix; especially if technologies to burn coal more cleanly are further developed. However, I’m not happy with the nuclear power plants in the UK; being such a small country a nuclear accident could have a devastating effect across much of the land. Especially in memory of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, when because of prevailing winds Britain did get a small dose of radiation at the time.
Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on February 06, 2017:
Always interesting comparisons.
CHRIS57 from Northern Germany on February 06, 2017:
Certainly Europe is way ahead of the US. But situation won´t change with Mr. T. at the helm. Anyways, here in Europe we may pad on our shoulders about the progress we made, but then the figures in your essay make me a little nervous.
Things are overheating or in other words: Aren´t the goals too ambitious? I am a fan of Mr. Vilfredo Pareto, the guy who said: 80% of results come from 20% of efforts. I found this in one way or another true in my professional life and my personal experience.
When it comes to renewable energy, here in my region we have well passed 80%. The matter gets expensive now.
I run (as a hobby) some small to midsize Solar Power plants. Most are just below 100 kWpeak, but one is at 250 kWpeak. With the 100 kW systems i can feed all power into the grid and get guaranteed pay (there is a law in Germany with significant tax breaks to promote Solar power.) Not so for the larger system. On a sunny spring day in Germany way beyond 100% of electricity is produced by renewables (solar, wind, biogas). At the power exchange in Leipzig we get negative power prices (Germany has to pay to get rid of its excess power). So on sunny spring days they cut my 250 kW system from the grid (that size is not protected by law). In 2017 the "sunny May day" already starts in cloudy February and spoils my business case. I would be totally satisfied with 70% renewables and 30% fossile, even wouldn´t mind nuclear. Unfortunately we are beyond that point.
Arthur Russ (author) from England on February 06, 2017:
Brilliant, thanks for the info. What you say fits in well with the impression I got from reading about the subject; namely that energy (electricity, gas and petrol) are all significantly cheaper in the USA therefore less incentive for them to be as energy efficient as we Europeans.
It’s the same here as you experience in Germany e.g. we almost never get power outages these days. Certainly, large numbers of small energy sources does make the grid far more stable; with built in redundancy (although not on the scale of Germany yet). Plus, like Germany, our power grid is super smart so it automatically re-routes the power when there’s a problem; and the control centre can re-direct extra power to wherever it’s needed at a moment’s notice.
You are quite right, taking long term responsibility, economic thinking, and simply saving energy are certainly key factors that make Europe’s energy management efficient and cost effective.
CHRIS57 from Northern Germany on February 06, 2017:
Interesting hub from a truely European perspective. May i add:
Doesn´t the who thing start before asking yourself about green or not so green energy?
IMHO the mess already starts with the consumption of energy.
I don´t want to twist statistics, but i am fairly sure the US as whole invests (consumes) twice as much energy to generate 1 Dollar of GDP than most of Europe does.
A typical (not too energy intensive) production firm in Germany uses about 1 to 2% of its revenues for energy(electricity). I learned that electric power cost in the US is roughly 1/3 of expensive German energy. Looks bad in the beginning, but take a closer look:
- Europe vs US roughly 50% more energy efficient.
- Grid stability ultimately higher in Europe vs US. Power outages the US can be counted by days/year. Power outages in my place of dwelling (Northern Germany) is counted in 2.. 4 minutes/year. If we had a power outage for an hour , we had it statically for the next 1 or 2 generations. Reason is simple. Large use of thousands of small renewable energy sources makes the grid super stable.
What i write has nothing to do with green or not green. It has to do with taking long term responsibility, economic thinking and simply saving energy.