New energy ; The US and Europe are two worlds apart

by / Friday, 17 August 2012 / Published in Smartgrid-CI Blog

In the US, gas is becoming a major source of  energy while Europe believes in solar and wind.

Gas is becoming a major energy source in the US to a point that renewable energy may be now in jeopardy, at least for the time being.
Gas is a local source and its development should alleviate the burden of imported oil on the country’s trade balance at least on the condition that the auto industry offers gas propelled cars and that the US consumers are ready for the switch. This may be starting to happen.  22 states just decided to convert their conventional fleet to compressed natural gas with the help of the “big three” plus Honda.
What will come out of the US effort toward gas is a new US energy landscape but not necessarily a revolution. The country will stick to the “fuel model”. The way to consume energy will remain unchanged; only the source of energy will be different.
Europe is taking a very different path. Shale gas extraction is made more difficult by tough environment protection regulations and because the “greens” have much more political impact than in the USA. At the same time, nuclear is becoming unpopular.
As a result, the Europeans have decided to push renewables more boldly. We all know about Germany’s strategic decision made last year to abandon nuclear power by 2021 and have it replaced by renewables. Germany is talking the talk. So far, the country has installed 50% of the world’s solar panels. This represents more than 21GW.
The UK is with offshore wind in exactly in the same situation as Germany with solar. 50% of the world’s offshore wind power is installed off shore of the British islands.
Overall so far, Europe has installed more than 80% of the world’s solar power and more than 80% of the world’s wind power. In some countries such as Denmark, The Czech Republic or Portugal, renewable energy already covers way more than 20% of energy needs.  Added to France where nuclear power is prevalent for the time being, these examples confirm that Europe is developing a 100% “electric model” that includes electric energy based transportation, another area where the EU is also heavily involved. No wonder why experiments such as Better Place are more successful in Europe than in the USA.
The European approach represents the building of a brand new energy model. It is a big transformation, already painful as illustrated by the problems Germany is facing with its conversion to renewables.
Both economies will be impacted in different ways by their new energy strategies. Let’s hope both will win.
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