EU electricity production over time by fuel

Renewables pass fossil fuels as European Union’s biggest source of electricity

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For the first time since this data has been recorded, renewables have overtaken fossil fuels as the biggest source of electricity throughout the European Union. According to the UK-based climate think tank Ember, in the first half of 2020, renewables – i.e., wind, solar, hydro, and bioenergy – accounted for 40% of electricity generation, an 11% rise. At the same time, electricity from coal and gas dropped by 18%.

Ultimately, this significant shift in electricity generation caused a 23% drop in carbon dioxide emissions, a critical step forward in the fight against climate change.

“This marks a symbolic moment in the transition of Europe’s electricity sector,” said Ember’s Dave Jones. “Renewables generated more electricity than fossil fuels, driven by wind and solar replacing coal. That’s fast progress from just nine years ago when fossil fuels generated twice as much as renewables.”

To explore Ember’s 2020 Global Electricity Review in full, go to: https://ember.shinyapps.io/GlobalElectricityDashboard/

While this great progress reflects the significant efforts of governments, companies, and others across Europe to promote renewable energy, it also reflects the widespread impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. With economies largely shutting down, most countries have simply needed less electricity this year. Because of this, the first sources to go are the most expensive: often fossil fuels.

This milestone for the EU a powerful silver lining as we deal with the overwhelming human death and economic damage dealt by the pandemic over the last several months.

What more can we do to help ensure that, despite this incredible damage, the pandemic also proves to be an inflection on our global attitude on climate and energy?


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Peter Schulte

Peter Schulte is the founder and editor of Kindling. Peter is also Senior Digital Engagement Associate for the Pacific Institute and the UN Global Compact's CEO Water Mandate, connecting businesses to sustainable water practices. Peter holds a B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies and a B.A. in Comparative Literature from University of California, Berkeley, and an M.B.A. in Sustainable Systems from Pinchot University. He lives in Bellingham, WA, USA with his wife, son, and cat.

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