October 5, 2021

Markets & Free EnterprisePolicy

America Sees the Future in European Union’s Renewable Energy Consumption

By: Kelvey Vander Hart

I recently spent 10 days in Europe. During that time, I traveled 13,000 miles and stepped foot in four different countries. While there was certainly much to be in awe of, I was amazed by the sheer amount of renewable energy I witnessed in use. But even as I witnessed firsthand wide-ranging renewable energy capabilities, one thought crossed my mind: “I’m seeing a shadow of America’s energy potential.”

America certainly runs, in part, on renewable energy. According to the American Clean Power Association’s Clean Power Annual 2020 report, the United States has enough installed wind and solar capacity to power 50 million American homes (roughly 36 percent of all homes in the country). Ten states generate more than 20 percent of their electricity from wind power, and two states receive more than 10 percent of their energy from solar. 

Other clean options are on the rise as well. America generates 30 percent of the world’s nuclear power, 19 percent of our nation’s total generated energy in 2019. In 2020, hydroelectric generated enough power to equal more than 7 percent of the nation’s entire annual energy generation. Geothermal is even on the rise across our country. In summary, in 2020, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 40 percent of America’s power was generated by nuclear or other renewable sources. 

Those numbers are a great start. However, we have not reached anywhere close to our renewable energy potential. But we can catch a glimpse of the future by looking at how the European Union (and the countries still economically linked to the union, like Iceland and Norway) generate and consume renewable energy. 

From geothermal energy powering Iceland to the wind turbines keeping the lights on in the Cyclades, it is clear that renewable energy is a big deal across Europe. In fact, renewable energy consumption outpaced fossil fuel usage across the European Union for the first time ever in 2020. A report by energy organizations Ember and Agora Energiewende stated: 

Renewables rose to generate 38% of Europe’s electricity in 2020 (compared to 34.6% in 2019), for the first time overtaking fossil-fired generation, which fell to 37%. This is an important milestone in Europe’s Clean Energy Transition.

When counted in tandem with nuclear energy, clean power accounted for 63 percent of the European Union’s power generation. But this expansion was  expected. After all, the European Union has passed many, MANY regulations and directives aimed at growing clean power. What the European Union has accomplished is impressive, but it is still fatally flawed due to growth being driven by top-down bureaucracy. 

It is for this reason that the European Union is a shadow of America’s clean power potential. Because, while current lawmakers in Washington would like to regulate and legislate our clean energy transition to death, we currently still possess two things working in our favor: a national bent toward innovation, and a desire to buck authority, find loopholes, and cut through red tape. If we want to reach our  true renewable energy potential , we should not be looking to the EU government. We should be looking to the innovators and dreamers.

From the wind power of Iowa (where I live!) to the solar panels picking up California sun, our nation has no lack of abundant renewable sources. And, the American spirit has always been one of progress, moving forward. We need to continue to make the technology that we have better and more affordable, and to build the technology that will power the country (and the world) tomorrow. We need less, not more government standing in the way. We need more people dreaming of a brighter renewable tomorrow. 

America can reach 100 percent renewable energy generation and consumption. And, while efforts such as those in the European Union are certainly inspiring, we can tackle the energy transition in our own markedly American way.