EU fossil fuel energy production hits record low, report says


Steam rises from a coal-fired power plant near wind turbines in Niederaussem, Germany, Nov. 2, 2022. [AP Photo]

The European Union's fossil fuel energy production hit a record low the first half of the year, think tank Ember Climate reported Wednesday, although green sources are struggling to fill the gap.

The decline in coal and gas generation was driven by a drop in electricity consumption across the bloc of 4.6 per cent amid high power prices, which surged after Russia invaded Ukraine, upending gas supplies.

"The decline in fossil fuels is a sign of the times," said Ember analyst Matt Ewen.

Coal generation was down 23 per cent,  accounting for less than 10 per cent of the EU's total electricity production for the first time ever in May, Ember reported.

While gas prices have fallen from "crisis highs" last year, they remain double the cost compared with the first half of 2021, the report said.

The drop in electricity consumption resulted from emergency measures implemented by nearly all EU members between November and March to combat rising prices.

Industrial demand, notably in Germany, had also declined over the period, the report said.

Fossil fuels now make up the "lowest share ever of the power mix" at 33 per cent, Ember said.

The greatest declines in fossil fuel use year-over-year at more than 30 per cent were seen in Portugal, Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia and Finland.

But reduced demand being the driver for the decline in fossil fuel use is not "sustainable or desirable," Ember warned.

With demand expected to rise in the future, replacing fossil fuels with alternative sources needs to happen faster, Ewen said.

Solar power generation was up 13 per cent in the first half of this year compared to the same period in 2022, while wind was up a more modest 4.8 per cent.

Denmark and Portugal saw renewables account for more than 75 per cent of the electricity mix while in Greece and Romania renewables for the first time exceeded 50 per cent of the share of supply.

However, the growth in clean energy was still not enough to compensate for the gap left by the fall in fossil fuels, the report found.

"A massive push, especially on solar and wind, is urgently needed to underpin a resilient economy across Europe," Ewen said.