Globally, renewables are on their way to overtaking conventional fuels, in spite of heel-dragging by the United States, which is busy completely reversing its energy policy. Green energy’s unstoppable progress is confirmed by two recent reports, one by the International Renewable Energy Association (IRENA), and the other by the European Environment Agency (EEA). Both of them show how, from China and Africa to the European Union, new 2016 installations around the world are helping reduce CO2 emissions, mitigating the effects of climate change. All this is thanks especially to a record total 161 GW from recently built renewable plants. Predictably ahead of the pack on the green path is Asia, which in 2016 generated 94 GW from recently constructed renewable energy plants, amounting to 58% of the region’s total installed capacity in 2016, for a total 812 GW. Europe is lagging far behind that at "just" 20 GW, while another positive sign is Africa’s addition of 4 GW, double the growth that continent saw in 2015.
The EEA report provides a more detailed look at the situation in Europe, illustrating the positive trend already from the first figures it reports. The share of renewables in Europe’s energy mix grew from 15% in 2013 to 16.7% in 2015. This, according to the EEA, puts the EU on the right track for meeting the 2020 targets set for Europe by the UN. While Brussels politics is abuzz with talk of a "two-speed Europe," the moniker is already appropriate to the progress of clean energy on the continent, with the top performers like Sweden (with 52.6%) and Finland (38.7%) far ahead of others like the Netherlands with just 5.5%. Italy boasts a respectable 17.6%, which will enable it to reach its 2020 targets ahead of schedule. The report also sheds light on contradictions in the European system, such as the fact that Japan and China have surpassed the EU in terms of new jobs created by the renewable sector. The EEA concludes its observations with an exhortation to member states that "will have to intensify their efforts considerably to meet longer-term energy and decarbonisation objectives for 2050." There are still major challenges ahead, according to the agency, including "the formulation of adequate policies that deliver targets, agreeing on an EU monitoring system and improving innovation capabilities to reap the full benefits of the energy transition in Europe."