Renewables overtake coal in Europe for the first time ever
Wind, solar and biomass overtook coal in supplying electricity across Europe for the first time last year, according to analysis by think tanks Sandbag and Agora Energiewende.
This marks significant progress considering coal generation was more than twice that of wind, solar and biomass just five years ago, with these three energy sources providing 12% more electricity in 2017 than in 2016.
However, it was also found that growth in green energy has become increasingly uneven, with the UK and Germany alone accounting for 56% of the rise in renewables over the last three years.
“EU renewables growth has been increasingly reliant on the success story of wind in Germany, the UK and Denmark, which has been inspiring,” Agora Energiewende director of European energy policy, Matthias Buck, said.
“If all countries in Europe engage in this, 35% renewable energy by 2030 is entirely possible – solar deployment in particular is still surprisingly low, and needs to respond to the massive falls in costs.”
The findings were published in a report launched in Brussels today, revealing that electricity consumption rose by 0.7% in 2017, marking a third consecutive year of increases.
This is though to reflect Europe’s growing economy and subsequent rising power demand, suggesting that efficiency efforts are currently insufficient and need to be strengthened, according to the analysis.
This rising demand, coupled with low hydro and nuclear generation, are thought to have offset the large increase in wind power, with EU greenhouse gas emissions estimated to have risen by around 1% last year.
The report also highlights Eastern European countries’ reluctance to phase-out coal, while Germany – Europe’s largest coal and lignite consumer – will only decide on the issue in 2019.
“With electricity consumption rising for the third year, countries need to reassess their efforts on energy efficiency,” Buck continued. “But to make the biggest difference to emissions, countries need to retire coal plants.
“In 2017, the Netherlands, Italy and Portugal added their names to the list of countries to phase-out coal, which is great – we need a fast and complete coal phase-out in Europe.”
Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM