Critics of renewable power frequently suggest that the intermittent nature of wind and solar power make it unreliable and therefore uneconomic. Energy guru Amory Lovins pointed out to the recent GLOBE conference that conventional energy sources are also unreliable. Down time from scheduled maintenance, breakdowns, distribution system problems, solar flares, and labour disruptions not only at the generating plant but also throughout the supply chain can cause conventional generating stations to go off line. Now data on renewables from Europe show how much of a role renewable can play in major electricity systems.
The European Union has a population of just over 500 million, or about 25% more than North America. According to figures just published by the European Renewable Energy Observatory, an independent organization co-funded by the Intelligent Energy Europe Programme of the European Union,
The report presents information for each European Union country with respect to windpower, photovoltaic, solar thermal, small hydropower, geothermal, heat pumps, biogas, biofuels, urban waste, solid biomass, concentrated solar power, and ocean energy. Renewable energy provided 23.4% of gross electricity consumption in 2012, employed 1.22 million people, and accounted for about $200 billion CDN in economic activity. EurObserv’ER attributes most of the decline in renewable energy investment to a decline in technology prices.
The 185 page report The State of Renewable Energies in Europe 2013 Edition may be found at http://www.energies-renouvelables.org/observ-er/stat_baro/barobilan/barobilan13-gb.pdf
A summary is available at http://www.eurobserv-er.org/pdf/press/year_2014/bilan/english.pdf