The European Union is widely regarded as a world leader in environmental and energy policy. It aims to reduce carbon levels to 80 percent of their 1990 levels and to increase the use of renewables (including solar and wind) to 20 percent by 2020.
But in truth the amount of electricity generated from coal (the dirtiest source of energy as it produces greenhouse gases at higher rates than other fossil fuels) has risen by as much as 50 percent in some European countries in recent years. It can be said that today is a "golden age of coal" in Europe.
The reason has to do with the EU's very efforts to make the switch to rely on renewables. For instance, under Germany's Energiewende (its plan to shift from using fossil fuels and nuclear power to renewables), electricity from renewable sources has priority in getting market share at the most profitable times of the day. The result has been bad news for the finances of utilities providing conventional forms of energy who have turned to cheaper coal to run their power stations. Utility companies plan to build some two dozen more coal plants in Europe.
There is a huge divide between Europe's shining energy policy and the reality of carrying it out. Tell Europe's leaders to stop burning coal: What good is a "green" energy policy that has led to plans to build more coal-fired power stations?