2019 was a disastrous year in terms of climate. Hurricanes, cyclones and floods caused the death and migration of thousands of people in Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Americas. Large-scale wildfires ravaged California and continue to devastate Australia. Brazil resumed the destruction of its rainforest, one of the main carbon dioxide absorbers.
In December, the UN Climate Change Conference COP25 was held in Madrid, but there was no significant progress in some critical issues. The events of 2019 show that although climate change threatens everyone, some countries accept the challenge, while others prefer to deny the risks. The first category includes Denmark, the UK, and Germany. The three countries saw a significant increase in the use of renewable energy sources last year.
Last year, Denmark set a new record for generating electricity from renewable sources. According to the national grid company Energinet, in 2019, the country produced 50% of its electricity from renewable sources, with 47% coming from wind and 3% from solar.
Denmark’s previous record for wind was 43%. It was set in 2017. Last year’s surge is partially associated with the large offshore wind farm Horns Rev 3 that was launched in early 2019. The facility, located 24km from the Danish coast, has a capacity of 406.7MW, which is enough to provide 425,000 homes, or 20% of Denmark’s population (5.6 million) with electricity.
According to Wind Denmark’s CEO, in addition to the launch of Horns Rev 3, 2019 saw more consistent winds than 2018 and thanks to that, wind farms generated a greater amount of energy.
Another European country, the UK, with a population of 66 million set its own records. In 2019, for the first time, the Brits received more energy from carbon-free sources than from fossil fuels: 48.5% came from wind farms, nuclear power plants, and solar systems, 43% from coal, gas, oil and diesel fuel, and 8.5% from biomass.
According to the UK’s National Grid, in 2019, 26.5% of electricity was produced from wind, solar and hydro sources. Nuclear power plants produced 16.8%. Most of the country’s fossil fuel came from gas (38.4%). Coal and other fossil fuels accounted for up to 2.1% of electricity. As reported by the authorities of the country, only one coal-fired power plant will remain in the UK by 2021.
The UK’s figure of 48.5% is not without controversy, given a 17% share of nuclear power. Although it is not carbon-based, there are serious concerns over the long-term storage of harmful radioactive waste. Politicians currently prefer nuclear power for its ability to generate huge amounts of energy efficiently, but the National Grid CEO John Pettigrew said that British nuclear power plants could well be replaced by wind and solar within the next 20 to 30 years.
In 2019, renewable energy captured 46% of the total energy consumption in Germany. That doesn’t sound as impressive as the UK’s achievement, but unlike the Brits, the Germans did not include nuclear power in the figure. Their figure reflects the share of fully renewable sources, with wind farms accounting for 25%, while the share of nuclear power in the country reached only 12% last year. Germany intends to completely abandon nuclear power plants by 2022. The government says that renewable energy sources should produce 65 % of the country’s electricity by 2030.
France, Portugal, Spain, and the Scandinavian countries are also investing heavily in the development of renewable energy sources. And while these efforts won’t be enough to prevent further climate threats in 2020, Europe’s energy transition sends a clear message to other countries: if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.