Challenges for sustainable energy in Europe

A new video by the Coppieters Foundation

News / 19.5.20

Following the publication of our book The Future of Sustainable Energy in which we looked at the political obstacles to the transition to renewable energy that are relevant in the context of the European Union, we have created a new animated video to help bring the topic to life.

Why look into sustainable energy?

With widespread environmental concerns across Europe, sustainable energy is a recurring subject in public debates and discussions. The production of renewable energy is more environmentally friendly and usually safer, and its development is key to tackling climate change and ensuring energy diversification for European nations.

We already possess the capacity and the know-how to make the green energy transition technologically and economically viable. Biomass, concentrated solar power, geothermal energy, hydropower, tidal energy, wave energy and wind turbines all have huge potential for Europe. But their development remains limited.

How come renewable energies are still so marginally used at a European level?

There are several socio-political factors hindering the green energy transition. First, the political situation in a country can be detrimental to the development of sustainable energy, particularly where there is a degree of instability or insecurity, or systemic problems. The insecurity caused by Brexit, for instance, results in fewer investments, making the transition to renewable energy complicated for regions like Yorkshire.

A low level of awareness and public support in certain areas can also make it hard to achieve set goals and to implement renewable energy policies. In Galicia, there is a lack of public information available: civil society lacks knowledge about the benefits of renewable energy sources and subsequently, the benefits of supporting these energies.

A lack of urgency is also a factor, slowing down the green energy transition even when the technology and financial resources are already available. Some governments do not express the urgency of transitioning to renewable energy, so society does not perceive it to be an urgent matter.

Finally, some nations may prefer other energy sources, perhaps because of tradition or because they have been the targets of lobbying from the non-renewable energy sector. The historical and cultural importance of coal in Silesia, for example, is an obstacle to the transition towards renewable energy.

What can be done about it?

To overcome these obstacles, European nations must set ambitious policy targets and create real incentives to encourage the transition to sustainable energy. Ultimately the solution to the green transition is both social and political.

It is about strengthening democracy and political systems, and making the process a truly inclusive and participatory one, allowing all voices and concerns to be heard. So that sustainable energy solutions are found at the local level and adapted to local contexts.

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This video is financially supported by the European Parliament. The European Parliament is not liable for the content of the video or the present article.

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