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Europe gets more energy from renewables than fossil fuels for first time ever

23/07/2020
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According to independent climate and energy thinktank Ember, electricity produced by renewable sources exceeded that produced by fossil fuels in the EU over the first half of 2020.

Europe has generated more power from renewables than fossil fuels in the first half of 2020
(Image via Thomas Richter / Unsplash)

The findings are part of the seventh annual report produced by Ember into the European power sector. The think-tank aggregate electricity grid data from ENTSO-E and analyse it to extrapolate findings across the 27 states of the EU.

In the first half of 2020 Ember found that renewables - including wind, solar, hydro and bioenergy - were responsible for 40% of electricity generation in the EU, while fossil fuels produced just 34%. 

“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 report shows an 11% increase year-on-year for renewables, with Ember putting that down to new wind and solar installations and favourable conditions during a mild and windy start to the year. 21% of the EU’s total electricity came from wind and solar alone - with that figure rising to 64% in Denmark, 49% in Ireland and 42% in Germany. 

Meanwhile it shows fossil fuel usage decreasing by 18%, which Ember claim is driven by both the rise in renewable energy generation and an overall 7% fall in electricity demand due to the impact of Covid-19 lockdowns. 

Coal usage fell the furthest, with an overall decrease of 32% across the EU states. However the fall is not even across the continent: Ember highlight Germany as the source of the largest decrease - 39% (a total of 31TWh) - while others still rely more on coal as a fuel source.

“The change is not equal: Poland is now Europe’s biggest coal generator and Czechia is the third largest,” said Jones.

“For countries like Poland and Czechia there is now a clear way out, should they choose to take it. 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.”

As a result of the greater move towards renewables, EU-17 power sector carbon dioxide emissions are estimated to have fallen by 23% in the first half of 2020. 

But with industries getting back to work and general power usage increasing once again for the second half of the year, will renewables continue to cope with the majority of energy requirements?

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Europe gets more energy from renewables than fossil fuels for first time ever - Time to read 3 min
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