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Expand chart
Reproduced from an Ember and Agora Energiewende report; Chart: Axios Visuals

Renewable sources overtook fossil fuels as the largest source of power generation in the European Union for the first time last year, new analysis Monday shows.

Why it matters: It's an inflection point. Wind — now the largest source of renewables in the bloc — and solar have been growing while coal-fired production has fallen sharply in recent years.

  • The chart above shows both absolute shares of renewables and fossil fuels, and coal vs. wind and solar together.
  • The report is from the clean energy think tanks Ember and Agora Energiewende.

The intrigue: Some of the 2020 data shows the effects of the pandemic, with coal's most recent decline influenced partly by decreased overall power demand along with continued displacement by renewables.

  • But overall, COVID-19's "impact on the overall trend from fossil fuels to renewables was quite limited," the report finds.
  • Wind and solar capacity additions were "surprisingly robust" despite the pandemic.

Yes, but: The changing generation mix in the continents' power sector isn't happening fast enough to be consistent with the EU's wider climate goals, the groups say.

"The transition from coal to clean is...still too slow for reaching 55% greenhouse gas reductions by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050," the report states.

What we're watching: Ember analyst Dave Jones, asked whether renewables will beat fossil fuels again this year, said, "it will probably be close." But the overall trajectory is clear.

  • "As demand picks up again post-COVID, it's possible there is a very small rebound in fossil generation," he said, adding it would be "slight and temporary."
  • "The trend is clear: Wind and solar are helping to quickly phase out coal. Hopefully, it will start to do the same for gas generation."

Go deeper

UN poll: Most see climate change as global emergency during pandemic

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg (C) fronts a Fridays For Future protest at the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm in September. Photo: Jonathan Nacksrtrand/AFP via Getty Images

64% of people from around the world say climate change is a global emergency, a UN poll published Wednesday finds.

Why it matters: It's the biggest global survey on climate change ever conducted, with some 1.2 million participants from 50 countries — including the U.S., where 65% of those surveyed view climate change as an emergency.

Mike Allen, author of AM
6 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden adviser Cedric Richmond sees first-term progress on reparations

Illustration: "Axios on HBO"

White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond told "Axios on HBO" that it's "doable" for President Biden to make first-term progress on breaking down barriers for people of color, while Congress studies reparations for slavery.

Why it matters: Biden said on the campaign trail that he supports creation of a commission to study and develop proposals for reparations — direct payments for African-Americans.

Cyber CEO: Next war will hit regular Americans online

Any future real-world conflict between the United States and an adversary like China or Russia will have direct impacts on regular Americans because of the risk of cyber attack, Kevin Mandia, CEO of cybersecurity company FireEye, tells "Axios on HBO."

What they're saying: "The next conflict where the gloves come off in cyber, the American citizen will be dragged into it, whether they want to be or not. Period."

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