Renewables overtake fossil fuels as EU's top electricity source

Renewables have overtaken fossil fuels to become the EU's biggest source of electricity for the first time ever, research from the Ember climate think tank has found.

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The findings show that renewables, such as wind, solar, hydro and bioenergy, generated 40% of the EU-27’s electricity in the first half of 2020, whereas fossil fuels generated 34%.

This was driven by new wind and solar installations and favourable conditions during a mild and windy start to the year, with wind and solar alone reaching a record of 21% of the Europe's total electricity generation.

Wind and solar reached an even higher penetration in Denmark, Ireland and Germany, on 64%, 49% and 42% respectively, although the researchers said that negative prices are highlighting inflexibilities in supply and demand.

Generation from fossil fuels fell by 18% due to competition from renewables and a 7% reduction in electricity demand brought on by COVID-19. As a result, the EU's power sector CO2 emissions fell by about 23%.

“This marks a symbolic moment in the transition of Europe’s electricity sector,” said Dave Jones, senior electricity analyst at Ember. “Renewables generated more electricity than fossil fuels, driven by wind and solar replacing coal.

“That’s fast progress from just nine years ago when fossil fuels generated twice as much as renewables.”

The findings also show that Germany’s coal generation has fallen below Poland’s for the first time, with Poland now generating as much coal-fired electricity as the remaining 25 EU countries combined.

While most other countries, including Germany, have a plan to phase out coal, Poland doesn’t yet have a plan.

This comes in the same week that EU leaders agreed to increase the bloc's climate action spending target to 30% as part of its 'Next Generation' recovery deal.

Jones continued: “Europe’s Next Generation recovery deal can help countries fast-track their coal to clean transition by using stimulus spending to immediately step up wind and solar investment, and an expanded Just Transition Fund to move away from coal.”

 

Image credit: iStock

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