The European Energy Transition is well underway and accelerating

Despite what nay-sayers think and write all around, the energy transition in the European Union is well underway and it’s accelerating faster and faster.

Let’s review some of these facts. First off, some facts and figures from Ember, which recently stated that both fossil fuels generation and CO2 emissions from the European electricity sector fell 19 percent last year alone. Renewables now account for 44% of the EU electricity mix and wind power is now producing more electricity than natural gas. Please read their full report for more exciting news.

Now let’s have a look at the largest European countries and see how each are faring. At the beginning of the year Spain, Germany and the Netherlands announced that they generated 50 % of their electricity from renewables in 2023.

Spain reached this milestone with solar PV accounting for 14 %, solar thermal, 1,8 % ; wind power 23,5% ; hydro 9,5 % and other renewables : 1,4 %. Nuclear accounted for 20,3 % and the remainder was provided by 30 % fossil fuels.

Germany reached 51,6% renewables last year – up from 47 % in 2022. This is the first time it reaches such a high level. The country managed to halve in 10 years its coal consumtion (from 249 TWh in 2014 to 113 TWh in 23) all the while closing its nuclear reactors too. The main economy of the continent still aims for 80 % renewables by 2030, despite closing its last nuclear reactors.

Netherlands has another success story for renewables. In a Linkedin post by Kees van der Leun, one can read that the country reached 54% wind + 7% biomass + 3% solar PV = 64% renewable energy. More solar capacity than France, despite being much less populous, (18 Million people vs 68 million)

Italy counted 11,6 GW of wind power capacity in 2022 and 28,6 GW of solar PV in september 2023. Renewables accounted for 42,8 % of total electricity generation in 2021. The country gets almost half of its electricity from natural gas and was thus, particularly hit with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the spike in prices.

Coal, like everywhere else in Europe has been plunging, from 19,4 % in 2015 to just 5 % in 2021. To a recent Reuters article, the government is pushing towards energy security and more renewables, so these encouraging results may just be the beginning.

In the United Kingdom, coal is dead and dropped to its lowest level of consumption since… 1757 (You read that right, before the American and French revolutions…). Fossil fuels accounted for a third of electricity in 2023. Cleanest electricity ever. Average of 162 g of CO2 eq / kWh. (18 % reduction in just one year)

Poland, the largest Eastern European nation has long been a coal powerhourse. Yet, renewables there too are moving forward and upward at an accelerated pace and accounted for 21 % in 2022. As Politico notes, « Greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector have reduced by a quarter «  between 2005 and 2022, largely thanks to 14 GW of solar in June 2023 (!) and 9 GW of onshore wind.

This might just be the beginning as there is a massive potential for both on and offshore wind. Offshore wind could reach 5,9 GW in 2030 and 18 GW in 2040. To Ember, the country could aim for a total of 50 GW of renewable energy capacity and 50 % of renewables by the end of the decade.

And France… The Macron government sticks its guns to nuclear and wants to build from six to 14 new nuclear reactors. All this despite the ginormous overcosts and delays of Flamanville and other reactors in Europe (Hinkley Point C and so on…).

My home country just had 5 % solar with barely a total of 20 GW installed in 2023. This is a shame when one see thats the Netherlands do so much better with so much less sun . A solar panel in Lyon Or Marseille will produce 30 to 50 percent more than one in Amsterdam. This is such a massive missed opportunity.

Image credits : Karsten Würth on Unsplash.

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