Renewables generated 38% of the EU’s electricity in 2020, overtaking coal and gas to become the main source of electricity for the first time ever in Europe, according to fresh data released on January 25.
The share of fossil fuels in the electricity mix fell to 37% while the remaining 25% was made up by nuclear power, according to the study published today by think tanks Ember and Agora Energiewende.
Both wind and solar generation increased capacity in 2020, producing 14% and 5% of the EU’s electricity respectively. Together, they generated a fifth of the EU’s electricity.
The remaining share of renewables (19%) was supplied mainly by hydropower and bioenergy. However, these have remained stable over the years and have mostly stopped growing.
“At the start of a decade of global climate action, it is satisfying that Europe has already reached this green power tipping point. Rapid growth in wind and solar has forced coal into decline but this is just the beginning,” said Dave Jones, senior electricity analyst at Ember Climate.
The rise of renewables and decrease of coal and gas means that Europe’s electricity production was 29% cleaner than in 2015.
“Europe is relying on wind and solar to ensure not only coal is phased out by 2030, but also to replace gas generation, replace closing nuclear power plants, and to meet rising electricity demand from electric cars and heat pumps,” added Jones.
Looking ahead, there are plenty of challenges, though. The EU has a binding target to increase the share of renewables to 32% of its overall energy mix by 2030, up from just under 20% currently. But that target will have to be raised to 38-40% in order to meet the bloc’s updated climate goals for 2030, the European Commission has said.