The European Union's new legislative proposals for a clean energy transition have disappointed environmentalists, policy experts and even building insulation manufacturers. And yet, given U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's lack of interest in sustainable energy, even this plan, cautious as it is, may well ensure Europe's leadership in this area, especially if the Europeans manage to implement the best element of the package — its focus on consumers and on letting them also be energy producers.

From the point of view of macro energy architecture, the long-awaited, 1,000-page European plan is not particularly ambitious. Even though its drafters expect it to mobilize up to €177 billion ($188 billion) a year in private and public investment starting in 2021 and create 900,000 jobs as Europe moves to 50 percent renewable energy by 2030, it largely leaves the details of the energy transition to member states, and only a small minority of them have specific sustainable energy policies today.

Among numerous gripes, the package has been criticized for allowing states to continue subsidizing coal power plants, allegedly because, given the instability of sustainable energy inputs such as wind and solar, they are needed to guarantee capacity is always available. The plan only introduces pollution limits for new plants. Environmental groups have wondered how a timid plan like this could help Europe achieve its stated goal, global green energy leadership.