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Renewable Energy in Europe

I was surprised that I saw few alternative sources of energy during my visit to Barcelona and Tarragona. I began to see wind turbines and solar panels when I crossed the border into France and even more as I traveled into Germany and Austria.

I did some research to see how much of Spain’s energy comes from alternative sources when compared to other European countries. Although I did not see buildings using solar energy, Spain is a leader in the development of solar energy. Recently it was announced that renewable energy contributed 54% of Spain’s electricity, mostly from hydropower and wind with photovoltaics and solar thermal accounting for about 5%. Sounds great, but the industry has been heavily subsidized and the economic crisis has not helped. Renewable energy is still a viable choice and things will improve in Spain, but it will take time.

In several European countries nuclear power still provides a significant amount of energy. After the Fukushima disaster in 2011 Germany vowed to shut down nuclear power in 10 years and replace it with renewable energy sources, thus reducing risks and cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2020. They have reduced nuclear power to less than 25% and about to 21% of their electricity comes from renewable sources like wind (37%), hydroelectric (19%) and solar (15%). In France about 75% of electricity comes from nuclear power and around 12% from renewable sources. The country that uses the most renewable energy is Iceland, where 100% of their energy comes from hydroelectric or geothermal sources.

The European Union (EU) is aiming at 20% of energy coming from renewable sources by 2020. This includes wind, solar, hydro-electric, geothermal and biomass. Using these sources of energy should help the EU reduce greenhouse emissions and make them less dependent on imported energy.

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