European energy transition update outlined in new report

Two European think tanks have published a new report presenting the state of the energy transition in the European power sector. The report, by Sandbag and Agora Energiewende provides an update on what happened in 2017, and highlights that the EU now gets more than 30% of its electricity from renewable sources, up from 12% in 2000. At the current rate of growth, the European bloc can increase the proportion of renewables in its electricity mix to 50% by 2030.

The key findings of the 2017 report are as follows:

  1. New renewables generation sharply increased in 2017, with wind, solar and biomass overtaking coal for the first time.Since Europe‘s hydro potential is largely tapped, the increase in renewables comes from wind, solar and biomass generation. They rose by 12% in 2017 to 679 Terawatt hours, putting wind, solar and biomass above coal generation for the first time. This is incredible progress, considering just five years ago, coal generation was more than twice that of wind, solar and biomass.
  2. But renewables growth has become even more uneven. Germany and the UK alone contributed to 56% of the growth in renewables in the past three years. There is also a bias in favor of wind: a massive 19% increase in wind generation took place in 2017, due to good wind conditions and huge investment into wind plants. This is good news since the biomass boom is now over, but bad news in that solar was responsible for just 14% of the renewables growth in 2014 to 2017.
  3. Electricity consumption rose by 0.7% in 2017, marking a third consecutive year of increases. With Europe‘s economy being on a growth path again, power demand is rising as well. This suggests Europe‘s efficiency efforts are not sufficient and hence the EU‘s efficiency policy needs further strengthening.
  4. CO2 emissions in the power sector were unchanged in 2017, and rose economy-wide. Low hydro and nuclear generation coupled with increasing demand led to increasing fossil generation. So despite the large rise in wind generation, we estimate power sector CO2 emissions remained unchanged at 1019 million tonnes. However, overall stationary emissions in the EU emissions trading sectors rose slightly from 1750 to 1755 million tonnes because of stronger industrial production especially in rising steel production. Together with additional increases in non-ETS gas and oil demand, we estimate overall EU greenhouse gas emissions rose by around 1% in 2017.
  5. Western Europe is phasing out coal, but Eastern Europe is sticking to it.Three more Member States announced coal phase-outs in 2017 - Netherlands, Italy and Portugal. They join France and the UK in committing to phase-out coal, while Eastern European countries are sticking to coal. The debate in Germany, Europe’s largest coal and lignite consumer, is ongoing and will only be decided in 2019.

 The full report can be downloaded here

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