Renewables Have Outperformed Fossil Fuels in Europe

Renewables Have Outperformed Fossil Fuels in Europe

New data has been released showing that renewables have outperformed fossil fuels in Europe in 2020, as the European electricity grid continues to adopt renewable power generation. 

It marks the first time in history that fossil fuels have added more electricity to the European grid than their fossil fuel counterparts. 

The share of renewables in the European electricity grid for the year of 2020 rose to a total of 38%, which marked a 4% increase over the 34.6% power generated in 2019. 

This rise in renewable power in Europe coincided with a slight drop for fossil-fuel electricity generation, which dipped to 37% for the year. 

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This landmark trend is set to continue as governments within the European continent aim for climate neutrality by 2050. 

While the announcement signified a landmark moment for renewables, the authors of the report state that “the transition from coal to clean is, however, still too slow for reaching 55% greenhouse gas reductions by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050.” 

The increase of renewables in the European energy mix was buoyed by added wind generation and solar infrastructure, which increased 9% and 15% respectively for the year of 2020. 

Combined, wind and solar power generated more than one-fifth of Europe’s overall electricity demand in 2020. 

The rise of wind and solar power generation coincided with a huge drop in the amount of coal-fired electricity generation. In total, power generation from fossil fuels like coal dropped 20% in 2020, and have dropped by 50% since 2015. 

Electricity generation from natural gas dipped slightly, down 4% in 2020, while nuclear power generation fell by 10%. 

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Authors of the report state that “this means Europe’s electricity in 2020 was 29% cleaner than in 2015,” while the carbon intensity rating has dropped from 317 grams of CO2 per kilowatt-hour in 2015 to 226 grams in 2020. 

Lead author of the report and analyst with Ember, Dave Jones has said that “it is significant that Europe has reached this landmark moment at the start of a decade of global climate action.” 

“Europe is relying on wind and solar to ensure not only coal is phased out by 2030, but also to phase out gas generation, replace closing nuclear plants, and to meet rising electricity demand from electric cars, heat pumps and electrolysers.” 

Director of a German energy think tank, Agora Energiewend, Patrick Garichen has said in reference to the report that “the European Green Deal – our response to the climate crisis – requires some 100TWh of annual additions of renewables, a doubling of the deployment speed seen in 2020.” 

Renewables Have Outperformed Fossil Fuels in Europe

“Post-pandemic recovery programmes thus need to go hand-in-hand with accelerated climate action,” he said. 

In late 2020, we reported that solar power was named “the cheapest electricity in history” by the International Energy Agency. This announcement marked the significant moment where the costs associated with deploying solar power were significantly less expensive than their fossil fuel counterparts. 

Director of the International Energy Agency, Dr Fatih Birol issued a statement saying that “the era of global oil demand growth will come to an end in the next decade.” 

“But without a large shift in government policies, there is no sign of a rapid decline.” 

“Governments have the capacity and responsibility to take decisive actions to accelerate clean energy transitions and put the world on a path to reaching our climate goals, including net-zero emissions,” Birol concluded.


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