Coal Fired, Europe, Gas & Oil Fired, Nuclear, Renewables

Renewables replace fossil fuels as Europe’s main power source

Renewables overtook fossil fuels as Europe’s primary electricity source for the first time in 2019, while gas also outpaced coal and lignite.

That’s the key findings of a new report from energy market data analytics firm EnAppSys.

While hydropower remained the largest provider of renewable power, the biggest gains in clean energy generation was in wind.

The latest report on the EU power market from EnAppSys reveals that fossil fuels generated 941.3TWh last year, compared with the 1029.1TWh produced by renewables and 777.0TWh from nuclear plants.

Some 37.5 per cent of generation came from renewables, 34.3 per cent from fossil fuels (18.2 from gas and 15.3 from coal/lignite) and 28.3 per cent from nuclear plants.

Of the renewables, 15.5 per cent was from hydro, 13.9 from wind, with the rest coming from solar, biomass and waste.

EnAppSys BV director Jean-Paul Harreman said that “one of the major changes seen in Europe in recent years – and in 2019 in particular – has been the transition from coal and lignite sources to gas. This trend has been driven largely by low gas prices and the increase in carbon prices, which makes generation from so-called ‘dirty’ fuels less attractive.”

Although overall levels of renewable generation dipped by 1 per cent in 2019, they have risen 24 per cent since 2015, outstripping the increases in fossil fuel and nuclear generation (4 and 5 per cent respectively) in the same period.

EnAppSys highlights that power produced from fossil fuels has become cleaner in recent years, with gas-fired generation climbing by 88 per cent since 2015 while coal/lignite-fired generation has fallen by 32 per cent.

In 2019, gas-fired plants produced 500.5TWh (up from 265.7TWh in 2015), versus 419.6TWh from coal/lignite (down from 617.6TWh in 2015). This was a notable shift from the previous year when gas-fired plants generated less power than coal/lignite plants.

Of the power produced from renewables, EnAppSys found that the majority continues to come from hydro plants, which generated 425.8TWh last year – an increase on the 402.6TWh produced in 2015 but down on the previous three years.

While recent growth in hydro generation has been very limited across Europe, wind farms have seen significant changes since 2015, and generated 382.5TWh last year compared with 272.7TWh four years previously.

EnAppSys found solar has also seen growth, though less significant than wind. It saw generation climb from 81.0TWh in 2015 to 113.5TWh last year. In contrast, biomass has seen more significant growth, climbing from 65.7TWh to 92.6TWh over the same period.

Harreman said: “The continued rise in renewables output meant that this power source overtook the combined output from fossil fuels for the very first time in 2019.

“Since 2015 several countries across Europe have seen significant growth in renewable generation at the expense of fossil fuels, while other countries already had a high share of generation from renewable sources due to a large hydro resource – with hydro remaining the largest source of renewable generation in Europe by some margin in 2019.”