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Projects Across Europe, Puerto Rico Prove Renewables Are Becoming the New Normal

Big things are brewing in the realm of clean energy, with new initiatives in France, Denmark and Puerto Rico ushering renewables towards the mainstream.

France is poised to double its current wind and solar power capacity with a new plan approved by the European Commission that will see Europe’s second largest economy add 17 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy to its portfolio.

The plan consists of three separate schemes to boost investment in renewable technologies. Under the first scheme, 15 GW of small-scale onshore wind projects with an annual budget of €1 billion, with no more than six turbines with an upper limit of 3MW, will be installed over the next 10 years.

The second scheme will see the generation of 2.1 GW of solar power with the installation of small-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) with less than 100 kilowats (kW) of capacity and an annual provisional budget of €190 million.

The third and final project is a €58 million sewer gas support scheme which promises a premium on top of the market price for power for projects use sewage gas to produce renewable energy.

The Commission has confirmed that the schemes “are fully in line with the Juncker Commission’s priorities to support investments in renewable energy sources and to ensure that the energy transformation enables EU industry to reach a leading position in low-carbon technologies, thereby fostering green growth and jobs.”

The new plan is timely, providing a viable, cost-effective alternative to the country’s aging nuclear infrastructure and putting France on track to meet its European Union goal of sourcing 23 percent of its energy from renewables by 2020, as well as newly elected President Macron’s intentions to double the country’s wind and solar capacity by 2022.

Meanwhile, Denmark has outlined a plan to pull the plug on subsidies for renewable energy by 2030. While renewables are just beginning to gain momentum in many countries, Denmark has established itself as a leader in the transition to a low-carbon future.

An ideal climate and substantial backing from government both in the form of investment and favorable regulatory frameworks have allowed companies such as DONG Energy and Vestas, the country’s largest wind turbine manufacturer, to thrive.

Earlier this year, DONG Energy announced plans to phase out the use of coal at its power stations entirely by 2023 and has played an instrumental role in slashing Denmark’s CO2 emissions in half since 2006. Last month, the company revealed that it had secured the right to build three offshore wind projects generating a total of 590 MW in the German North Sea, all of which will be built without subsidies.

“The zero subsidy bid is a breakthrough for the cost competitiveness of offshore wind and it demonstrates that technology’s massive global growth potential as a cornerstone in the economically viable shift to green energy systems,” Samuel Leupold, Executive VP and CEO of Wind Power at DONG Energy, said in a statement at the time of the announcement.

Vestas has also come out to say that is now capable of operating —and competing — without subsidies. “The cost (of renewable energy) is declining steeply. It is the technology that has driven this,” Lars Christian Lilleholt, Denmark’s Energy and Climate Minister, told Reuters.

For the rest of the world, a similar scenario is nothing more than a pipe dream at this stage in the game. The lack of incentives, subsidies and favorable conditions create barriers that stall development and create market uncertainty. Increased government support is, therefore, imperative to create an environment that allows the industry to flourish.

Energy management and automation specialist Schneider Electric is helping Puerto Rico position itself to participate in the low-carbon economy with the announcement of $7 million in infrastructure upgrades at the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in San Juan. The project will include comprehensive facility improvements and upgrades that will enhance patient care, all delivered with no up-front capital investment through a guaranteed energy savings performance contract (ESPC).

A recent VA Scorecard on Sustainability/Efficiency revealed that only 15 percent of VA facilities are considered sustainable and 23 percent of facilities are not on track to meet their energy intensity reduction goals. The partnership with Schneider Electric will provide new resources to help the VA close these sustainability and efficiency gaps while also addressing the right budget constraints that many VA facilities face.

Upgrades to the facility are expected to generate $1 million in annual energy savings, which will help fund the improvements over the life of the project. A significant portion of the work focuses on water conservation efforts to address the growing costs of fresh water resulting from recent drought conditions and a remote water island environment. By installing low-flow plumbing fixtures, the VA will be able to significantly reduce water consumption which translates to tangible utility savings. Additional energy conservation measures include lighting, HVAC and advanced metering system upgrades.

The project marks an expansion of a long-term collaboration between Schneider Electric and the VA. In addition to the work being done at the VA Medical Center in San Juan, Schneider Electric has completed similar projects at three VA New England Healthcare System facilities, which will save $10 million in energy costs over the life of the projects.

Finally, LEGO has achieved its 100 percent renewable energy target three years ahead of schedule. Since 2012, the company has invested nearly £700 million in renewables, which has been used to generate more than 160 MW of clean energy. The company is now at a point where its total output from invested projects exceed the energy consumed by all LEGO factories, stores and offices across the globe.

Reaching the 100 percent renewable milestone was a target inspired by the LEGO Group’s partnership with the WWF Climate Savers program. The LEGO Group is working with other partners to advocate for investment in renewable energy and has joined the RE100, a global initiative of companies committed to using 100 percent renewable energy.

“Together with our partners, we intend to continue investing in renewable energy to help create a better future for the builders of tomorrow,” said Bali Padda, Lego’s Chief Executive.