Graph of the Day: Renewables overtake coal in European electricity supply

Graph of the Day: Renewables overtake coal in European electricity supply

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Analysis shows renewable energy generation supplied more of Europe’s electricity than coal in 2017 for the first time ever.

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Good wind conditions and huge investment into wind energy have helped the European Union generate more electricity from renewable energy sources like wind, solar and biomass than from coal in 2017, a new study has shown.

The analysis by Sandbag and Agora Energiewende – and illustrated in the chart above – found that renewables accounted for more than 30 per cent of Europe’s electricity for the first time last year, led by Germany and the UK; the two nations have contributed 56 per cent of the growth in renewables in the past three years (2014-2017).

Also notable was the massive 19 per cent increase in wind generation in 2017 – two-thirds of which was in Germany and the UK. Solar power generation, however, grew only by 8 per cent despite falling costs of the technology and record low power purchase agreements.

As noted here by the UNFCCC, the report – European Power Sector 2017 – described the progress made by renewables as “incredible”, particularly because coal power generation was more than twice that of wind, solar and biomass just five years ago.

“EU renewables growth has been increasingly reliant on the success story of wind in Germany, the UK and Denmark, which has been inspiring. If all countries in Europe engage in this, 35 per cent renewable energy by 2030 is entirely possible,” said Matthias Buck Director of European Energy Policy, Agora Energiewende.

But despite this great progress, Dave Jones – an energy analyst with Sandbag – says more work needs to be done to cut emissions in line with the Paris targets, to keep global warming below 1.5°C. Namely, he said, governments needed to legislate to retire coal.

“With electricity consumption rising for the third year, countries need to reassess their efforts on energy efficiency,” sandbag said.

“But to make the biggest difference to emissions, countries need to retire coal plants. We forecast Europe’s 258 operational coal plants last year emitted 38 per cent of all EU ETS emissions, or 15 per cent of total EU greenhouse gases.

“In 2017, Netherlands, Italy and Portugal added their names to the list of countries to phase-out coal, which is great progress. We need a fast and complete coal phase-out in Europe: the thought of charging electric cars in the 2030’s with coal just doesn’t compute.”

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  1. michael nolan 3 years ago

    Looks like coal peaked in 2012 in EUR, and renewables is increasing to this cross-over. The decreasing costs of batteries for short term back up of Variable Renewable energy , and pumped hydro and other dispatchable power gaining traction, will continue to drive these trends.

  2. onesecond 3 years ago

    A doubling of renewable electricity in just seven years. If this growth rate keeps intact, then very soon 100% of European electrictiy should be renewable. This graph is just lovely!

  3. No way 3 years ago

    Renewables have been beating coal in the EU since 2013, nothing new here. The most important renewable source for electricity is for some strange reason omitted in the diagram.

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