Wind and solar growth alleviates fears of European coal resurgence

Wind and solar power has overtaken fossil gas for the first time in the European Union (EU), reassuring those who feared a coal resurgence after Russia cut off supply.

Wind and solar generated 22% of electricity in the EU in 2022, while fossil gas produced 20%, according to climate think tank Ember.

Coal’s share of power rose slightly by 1.5%, generating 16% of electricity last year, but the fossil fuel is still facing consistent year-on-year falls.

Europe’s energy crisis has been in the news recently, as Germany announced it was demolishing a village to make way for a coal expansion, sparking an outcry from environmental activists.

Ember’s head of data insights, Dave Jones, said: ‘Europe has avoided the worst of the energy crisis. The shocks of 2022 only caused a minor ripple in coal power and a huge wave of support for renewables. Any fears of a coal rebound are now dead.’

Russia provided the majority of Europe’s gas, supplying 40% in 2021, leaving the bloc scrambling when the country announced it would cut supply due to backlash over its invasion of Ukraine.

But solar power has seen record growth, expanding by 39 TWh in 2022 – twice its previous record – helping to avoid $10bn in gas costs.

Electricity demand across the union also decreased by 7.9% in the last quarter of 2022 which helped to reduce energy costs.

The amount of fossil gas generated in the EU was surprisingly similar to rates in 2021, making up 20% of the power supply, but this is expected to change drastically in 2023.

Executive Vice President for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, said: ‘We are seeing a remarkable acceleration in the pace with which renewable energy is being built. Especially for offshore wind and rooftop solar the numbers are impressive. It’s clear that European citizens want to benefit from cheap, clean energy.

He continued: ‘The ongoing energy crisis will still bring another difficult winter, but the more renewables we have, the more sovereign we are in our energy supply.’

Photo by Mischa Frank 


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top