Jul 22, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Europe's power inflection point

A balance scale with a EU star and the earth
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

European Union power generation from renewables exceeded fossil fuel-based electricity for the first time in the first half of 2020, per new analysis Wednesday from the U.K.-based climate think tank Ember.

Why it matters: It appears to be an inflection point. Ember electricity analyst Dave Jones tells Axios that he does not expect fossil generation to regain a bigger share than renewables.

  • Only "exceptional circumstances" could temporarily change this, he says, such as a major shutdown of a French nuclear plant that leads to more fossil generation to compensate, or a very dry period that slashes hydropower.

Where it stands: Renewables accounted for 40% of EU generation in the past half-year, while coal's steep decline led to fossil fuels having a 34% share, Ember said.

  • Renewables output increased and wind and solar together reached 21% of European generation. Power from fossil fuels fell by 18%.
  • "Fossil was squeezed on two fronts: by rising renewable generation and a 7% fall in electricity demand due to COVID-19. Coal took the brunt, falling by 32%."
  • Carbon emissions from power generation fell by 23%.

The big picture: A Reuters piece explores a broader global transition underway, even though fossil fuels have by far the largest worldwide power share.

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