The EU’s use of coal-fueled power rose last year as countries faced a shortfall in energy supplies related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but the increase was not a high as many feared, according to a report out Tuesday.
That’s partly thanks to a boost in renewable energy production, which generated a record 22 percent of the EU’s electricity last year.
As EU countries scrambled to shore up energy supplies after Russia cut off gas flows following its invasion of Ukraine and the bloc imposed sanctions on Moscow’s coal and crude oil, some turned to mothballed coal power plants to replace lost supplies.
The move caused EU coal-fired electricity generation to rise by 7 percent compared to 2021, accounting for 16 percent of EU electricity, but the situation “could have been much worse,” said the report by think tank Ember.
The report points a fall in coal generation in all four of the final months of 2022 mainly due to lower electricity demand. The 26 coal units brought back online across the bloc last year ran at just 18 percent average utilization between October and December, it says, while the EU burned through just one third of the 22 million tons of extra coal it imported as a failsafe.
“Any fears of a coal rebound are now dead,” said Ember’s head of data insights Dave Jones.
A major boost in wind and solar energy, which overtook coal use again and outpaced natural gas for the first time, helped to keep the coal rebound in check.
The biggest jump was seen in solar generation, which rose by one quarter — or 39 terawatt hours — last year, according to the report. The Netherlands emerged as the EU’s leading producer of solar energy, accounting for 14 percent of its electricity mix.
The European Commission’s climate chief Frans Timmermans said the report shows that the institution’s target of achieving a 45 percent share of renewables in the bloc’s overall energy mix by 2030 is “ambitious but entirely feasible.”
Fossil fuel generation is set to fall by another 20 percent this year, partly as solar and wind generation extend their production gains, according to the report.
The think tank also expects an increase in the bloc’s hydropower output, which was crippled by a historic drought in 2022, and pointed out that many of France’s nuclear reactors are slated to come back online this year.