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    Wind and solar overtake gas and now generate one-fifth of European electricity

    January 31, 2023 - CE Noticias Financieras


      Wind and solar power generated one-fifth (22%) of the electricity consumed in the EU in 2022, overtaking gas(20%) for the firsttime, according to the European Electricity Review report published today by energy think tank Ember.

      The share of coal-fired electricity increased by just 1.5 percentage points last year, generating 16% of EU electricity and marking a new series of year-on-year falls in the last four months of 2022.

      Ember's analysis reveals how last year Europe faced a delicate situation in the electricity sector when it decided to cut trade ties with Russia, its main gas supplier following its decision to invade Ukraine, while reaching the lowest levels of hydro and nuclear production in the last two decades. A situation that generated a deficit equivalent to 7% of total electricity demand.

      Wind and sun to the rescue

      However, the spectacular growth of wind and solar helped to cushion the hydro and nuclear deficit . Solar generation increased the most by setting a record growth of 39 TWh (+24%), almost double its previous record, which contributed to a E10 billion reduction in gas imports. In fact, 20 EU countries, with Spain leading the way, set new solar energy records in 2022.

      Lower electricity demand also contributed to reducing the deficit. EU electricity consumption fell by almost 8% in the last quarter of 2022 compared to the same period the previous year: a figure surprisingly close to the drop in demand recorded in the second quarter of 2020 following the covid-19 confinement.

      The high temperatures that ended 2022 were a decisive factor in achieving this cut in consumption, but, as the report points out, advances in energy efficiency, restraint in the face of rising tariffs and citizen solidarity to reduce energy demand in times of crisis played a decisive role.

      Only one-sixth of the nuclear and hydroelectric deficit was covered by coal, whose electricity generation increased by 7%. As a result, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the EU's electricity sector rose by 3.9 percent last year compared with the previous year. But things could have been much worse had it not been for the increase in generation from wind and solar, whose rapid progress prevented an even greater return to coal. Thanks to this, consumption of this socially contested fossil energy remained below 2018 levels and accounted for only a 0.3% increase globally.

      "European countries are as committed to phasing out coal as they were before the crisis"

      Coal-fired electricity in the EU fell in the last four months of 2022, down 6% year-on-year. The 26 coal-fired plants that were urgently commissioned following the Russian invasion of Ukraine operated at an average of 18% of their total capacity and of the 22 million tons of coal that the EU ordered as a matter of urgency it ended up consuming barely a third.

      The beginning of the end of gas

      One of the most surprising data in Ember's report is that gas generation remained almost unchanged (+0.8%) in 2022 compared to 2021, despite the record prices reached in the markets. Thus, gas generated 20% of the EU' s electricity in 2022, up from 19% in the previous year. However, the analysts who prepared this study predict that this trend will change drastically in 2023, allowing a cut in GHG emissions.

      In fact, the latest data from the electricity sector suggest that this year will see an acceleration of the energy transition towards wind and solar, which continue to show an unprecedented rate of growth, while hydro and nuclear will recover in the case of France. As a consequence of this reading, Ember estimates that fossil fuel power generation could plummet by 20% in 2023: twice as much as in 2020.

      For Walburga Hemetsberger, CEO of SolarPower Europe, "these new figures show that solar is stepping up just when Europe needs it most, and in 2023, with the right support, it will continue to break records and bring us even closer to the goal of achieving a 100% renewable Europe."

      Wind and solar power generated one-fifth (22%) of the electricity consumed in the EU in 2022, overtaking gas(20%) for the firsttime, according to the European Electricity Review report published today by energy think tank Ember.


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