Electricity production from renewable sources in Europe has surpassed fossil fuels for the first time. Thus, at the end of the year, green generation provided 38.2% of the total electricity generation in the European Union compared to 37% produced in coal and gas plants. Renewable energy sources (RES) are gradually replacing European generation coal and nuclear power plants. For Russia, as the largest supplier of energy resources to Europe, the contraction of conventional fuel markets should act as a wake-up call, analysts say.
The share of renewable energy (combining wind, solar, and hydroelectric plants, as well as the use of biomass) in energy production in Europe in 2020 exceeded the share of fossil fuels for the first time in history, follows the annual report from British think tank Ember and German Agora Energiewende (.pdf). Thus, according to the report, last year renewable energy sources accounted for 38.2% of the total electricity produced (34.6% in 2019), and fossil fuels – 37%.
The study attributed this to the doubling of wind and solar power generation since 2015.
In 2020, the generation of wind and solar power plants increased by 9% and 15%, respectively, and together they produced a fifth of Europe’s electricity. in between leaders To use them:
- Denmark (61% of output),
- Ireland (35%),
- Germany (33%),
- Spain (29%).
But according to the study’s authors, the growth of renewable energy generation is still insufficient to reach the 2030 targets, and should nearly triple. Thus, the average annual increase in generation in 2020-2030 should rise to 100 TWh from an average of 38 TWh for the 2010-2020 period.
At the same time, coal electricity production in Europe has halved since 2015, and in 2020 coal-fired thermal power plants accounted for only 13% of generation (20% decrease compared to 2019). Electricity production at gas stations in 2020 fell not dangerously – by only 4% year on year, which was facilitated by a sharp drop in gas prices.
At the same time, in 2020, the decrease in the production of nuclear power generation was the largest in history – by 10% at once.
“The rapid growth of wind and solar energy has led to a declining share of coal, but this is only the beginning. Europe is relying on wind and solar power not only to phase out coal by 2030, but also to phase out gas generation, and to replace nuclear power plants being shutting them down, meeting the growing electricity demand for electric vehicles, heat pumps and electrolyzers.” Senior Analyst Dave Jones explained.
The demand for electricity decreased by 4% in 2020 due to the Corona virus, but this, according to the authors of the study, did not affect the increase in the share of renewable energy in Europe. Specific CO2 emissions from electricity production decreased to 0.226 kg per 1 kWh, which is 29% lower than in 2015.
The decline in demand for electricity during the year 2020 led to the emptying of power plants with the highest operating costs, which are coal-fired, and this was accompanied by a decrease in nuclear power generation due to faults in France and Belgium and the decommissioning of nuclear units in Germany. and Sweden, notes a senior analyst of the MSHU Energy Center “Skolkovo Yuri Melnikov.
Against this background, RES showed a sharp increase in generation, and gas generation was only able to maintain its position, despite very favorable fuel prices.
Yuri Melnikov recalls that the operation of solar and wind power plants in the European Union in 2021, according to the forecasts of the International Energy Agency, will be a record for the past five to seven years – at least 30 gigawatts. For Russia, in his opinion, this will be an additional signal indicating the problem of shrinking European direction of exports of fossil fuels. Russia is the largest supplier of gas and thermal coal to the European Union.
Anatoly Chubais, Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for Relations with International Organizations, December 10, 2020
Five years ago, someone told us: “Why is this necessary, your renewable energy, stop doing this nonsense.” And now, I assure you, it turns out that this request will appear …
Rostislav Kostyuk of Vygon Consulting believes that 2020 was a record year for growth in the share of green energy, mainly due to the pandemic: with a significant reduction in consumption, renewable energy generation, which has no fuel costs, actively replaced coal and gas plants that were out of balance. At the same time, the analyst believes that Russian gas and coal suppliers are unlikely to lose the market in the medium term due to lower production costs.