Renewables have overtaken “fossil” energy in Europe

The European Statistics Agency has published preliminary data on electricity production in 2020 from various sources. It turns out that renewables have been largely shielded from the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to grow, while “fossil” energy has fallen to an all-time low.


Image source: Eurostat

In 2020, electricity generation from fossil fuels continued to decline, reaching its lowest level in 2020 at 1022.589 GWh. Since observations began in 1990, production has increased from 1,226,156 GWh to a peak of 1,584,005 GWh in 2007. In 2019, fossil energy generated 1,133,402 GWh and decreased by 9.8% another a year later. The failure of analysts was explained by the repercussions of the Corona virus pandemic, which disrupted the economy in many countries of the world.

A similar trend of electricity generation is observed in nuclear power plants, where preliminary data for 2020 show the lowest generation level since 1990 – 683,183 GWh, or 6.3% less than in 1990. In the European Union, nuclear power is now not considered renewable, Although the opposite is true in the United States for example. But this may soon change: a process has already begun in Europe to equate nuclear and renewable energy.

According to analysts, the last decade has seen a significant increase in the production of electricity from renewable sources. According to preliminary data for 2020, electricity production from renewable energy sources for the first time exceeded energy production from fossil fuels. Renewable electricity generation has increased over time from 303,279 GWh in 1990 to 979,866 GWh in 2019. Moreover, preliminary data for 2020 shows an increase of 1,052,582 GWh, which is 29,994 GWh higher than fossil fuel generation. But it must be remembered that in the European Union this category of generation includes hydroelectric power plants, which make the main contribution to the production of “green” electricity in Europe.

Electricity generation from exotic sources, such as geothermal and bioenergy, as well as from unidentified sources, accounts for only a very small share of total electricity generation, about 5,200 GWh over the past decade and 4,442 GWh in 2020.

Preliminary data for 2020 indicate a significant reduction in domestic consumption of fossil fuels in the European Union. In general, in 2020, fossil fuels, especially solid fossil fuels, are expected to be at their lowest levels since 1990. The rapid decline in the consumption of oil and petroleum products and the moderate decline in the consumption of natural gas contrast sharply with the trend in previous years.

Image source: Eurostat

Image source: Eurostat

Preliminary data for 2020 show that consumption of oil and oil products decreased by 12.9% compared to 2019. Compared to 2005, consumption of oil and oil products in 2020 decreased by 23.1%. In 2020, domestic natural gas consumption was less affected, decreasing by only 2.6% compared to 2019. However, since 2005 the decline has been 8.9%.

The consumption of lignite and hard coal also continued to decline sharply due to the effects of the epidemic, along with the effects of exit policies from this fossil. Compared to 2019, in 2020 there was a significant decrease in the consumption of brown coal (-20.0%) and hard coal (-18.0%). From 2005 to 2020, hard coal consumption fell by more than half (-51.2%), while that of lignite fell by 44.9% over the same period.

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