EU’s fossil fuel use for electricity hits record low in 2023, driven by reduced demand and increased clean power adoption.
In a significant stride towards a greener future, the European Union (EU) has witnessed its lowest recorded use of fossil fuels for electricity generation in 2023. Data reveals that the 27 member states of the EU reduced their fossil fuel consumption for electricity by 17% in the first half of 2023 compared to the same timeframe in 2022. This reduction translates to the EU producing 410TWh of electricity from sources emitting greenhouse gases, marking the lowest since 2015 and possibly even since the turn of the millennium.
This decline in fossil fuel-based electricity generation is attributed to a combination of decreased demand for electricity and a surge in clean power production. However, experts caution against over-reliance on dwindling demand to sustain this trend. Matt Ewen, a data analyst at the clean energy thinktank Ember, emphasized the importance of actively transitioning to alternative energy sources rather than merely expecting fossil fuel demand to diminish.
The EU's ambitious climate goals include a commitment to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 55% from 1990 levels by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Achieving these targets will necessitate a shift towards greater electricity consumption, even as overall energy use decreases. This is in line with the growing trend of electrifying homes and transportation, reducing dependence on fossil fuels.
A closer look at the data reveals that fossil fuel generation in the first half of 2023 plummeted by over 20% in 11 EU nations and by more than 30% in five countries. Fourteen member states recorded their lowest ever fossil fuel generation for this period. Notably, seven countries, including Austria, Denmark, and Italy, saw their fossil fuel consumption drop to the lowest levels this century.
Supporting these findings, a study from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) highlighted a discernible move away from fossil fuel-based power in the EU. However, Petras Katinas, an energy analyst at CREA, pointed out the EU's continued dependence on fossil fuels, especially imports, which poses potential vulnerabilities in the face of supply chain disruptions.
On the brighter side, renewable energy sources have seen robust growth. According to The Guardian, solar power generation surged by 13% in the first half of 2023 compared to 2022, while wind and hydropower saw increases of 5% and 11%, respectively. Several EU countries also set new records in terms of the proportion of power derived from renewables. Greece and Romania surpassed the 50% mark, while Denmark and Portugal exceeded 75%.
External factors also played a role in the reduced demand for electricity. Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, gas prices soared, prompting the EU to implement emergency measures to curb demand. A milder winter further reduced electricity consumption by 5% in the first half of 2023 compared to the previous year.
Despite these positive trends, the Ember report stressed the need for proactive measures. It advocated for faster deployment of wind turbines and solar panels, expansion of the electricity grid, increased battery storage, and streamlined processes for clean energy infrastructure permits. Ewen, echoing this sentiment, warned against complacency and emphasized the importance of continued momentum in the green energy transition.
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