The European Union is the world leader in developing and implementing renewable energy. The 2020 goals of the EU are to reduce emissions 20% compared to the levels in 1990, produce 20% of energy from renewable sources (solar, wind, geothermal, sea waves, biomass), reduce energy consumption and increase energy efficiency 20%.
Many EU countries hope to exceed these goals. Most of Europe’s population is urban, which in turn means most of the energy used and emissions created happens in cities. Obviously, city governments need to improve their transportation systems, infrastructure, public buildings and utilities to reach or exceed the EU’s 2020 goals.
Denmark, alternative energy, and reducing consumption
With a goal of not relying on fossil fuels at all, Denmark is increasing renewable energy use. It is now 2012. Denmark has already reached their 2020 solar energy goals! Net metering makes solar more affordable and attractive.
Denmark has the largest wind turbine industry in the world, and they produce almost 20% of the country’s energy needs with wind power. The 2020 goal is to increase that number to 50%. Cutting emissions also means cutting cars. Cycling is common in Denmark, and by creating a more bike-friendly atmosphere, Denmark hopes to increase ridership from a third to half of the population by 2015. There will be tax incentives for the purchase of electric cars and charging stations installed to support them. A tax on conventionally powered cars will eventually reduce and eliminate their use.
Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, has a target date of 2025 to become the first carbon neutral city in the world. There is already a mandatory green roof policy!
German know-how and alternative energy
Germany has reached a halfway point in their 2020 target for solar PV. They are building more wind farms to supplement the PV to supply 35% of the country’s electricity over the next eight years. They hope to get this number up to 80% by 2050. This will eliminate dependency on fossil fuels while creating energy security.
New construction methods and materials will offer more energy efficiency. Germany expects to reach a goal of 14% sustainable heating (solar, biomass, hydropower and geothermal) by 2020.
Another benefit of any country having sustainable goals is job creation. Engineers, contractors, laborers and designers are needed for these growing fields. As long as fuel prices are unstable, renewable energy and energy efficient construction will continue their rise. Roadways and infrastructure will need to be adapted and bicycles and accessories manufactured as more and more cyclists hit the road.
EU 2020 and the city of the future
EU 2020 goals are not always about energy. They include people, too. Urban areas need to be attractive, vibrant places to live. High density and diverse neighborhoods make improvements more economically worthwhile on a per capita basis. Most people in Europe live in urban areas, and it behooves local governments to cater to them and make them livable for residents and competitive for businesses.
But then there are countries like the US that are not interested in being cooperative with the EU as far as emissions. This is embarrassing and foolish. Political boundaries do not divide our air and water. We need to work together to reduce CO2 emissions and clean up the planet. Each region, country and city can do what they can, but until we are all on the same page, we will never reach 2020.