Rise in coal use and decline in hydropower cancelled out EU gains in renewables this year

Rise in coal use and decline in hydropower cancelled out EU gains in renewables this year


The European Union’s transition to green energy sources was disrupted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin’s decision to sever Europe’s gas supply. Faced with mounting energy costs and the threat of energy shortages, EU policymakers revived coal-fired power plants, and a scorching summer depleted production in hydropower, offsetting the continent’s expansion in solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources.

For EU climate advocates, the last year has been one of running to stand still. In the year following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Europe managed to reduce its overall electricity demand by about 4.4 percent, or 117 terawatts per hour (TWh) from the prior 12-month period. This energy conservation effort almost perfectly countered the dramatic decline in EU nuclear power production of 119 TWh over the same period, most concentrated in Germany and France.

Meanwhile, increased production of renewable energy—39 additional TWh from solar, wind, bio, and other renewables—was cancelled out by a similar decline in the also-carbon-free hydropower production. The European Union also saw some minor reshuffling among fossil-fuel-based power production, as 23 TWh of increased coal power was countered by a 20 TWh drop in electricity from petroleum and manufactured and natural gases.

The good news is that the next 12 months offer greater promise for EU climate advocates. The continent has reduced its reliance on Russian energy, a further increase in renewable energy production now seems a given, and, if the region receives sufficient rainfall, hydropower production should also grow.

This PIIE Chart is based on Jacob Funk Kirkegaard’s blog, Europe's energy problem is now climate change, not Russia.

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