Renewables beat fossil fuels

A half-yearly analysis of Europe’s electricity transition
Climate change mitigation Climate change Fossil fuels Renewable energy Electricity Energy industries European Union
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This mid-year analysis reports aggregate data from every EU country, to present the latest insights on Europe’s electricity transition. Findings demonstrate renewables (solar, wind, hydro and biomass) didn’t just beat out coal on the European grid — they beat out all fossil fuels put together. As a result, the continent's power sector CO2 emissions fell by 23%. 

Key findings:

  1. Renewable electricity generation exceeded fossil fuel generation, for the first time ever. In the first half of 2020, renewables - wind, solar, hydro and bioenergy - generated 40% of the EU-27’s electricity, whereas fossil fuels generated 34%.
  2. Renewables rose by 11%. This was driven by new wind and solar installations and favourable conditions during a mild and windy start to the year. Wind and solar alone reached a record of 21% of Europe’s total electricity generation, and reached even higher penetration in Denmark (64%), Ireland (49%) and Germany (42%). Although electricity grids have coped well with record wind and solar penetrations, negative prices are highlighting inflexibilities in supply and demand that need to be addressed.
  3. Fossil fuels fell by 18%. Fossil was squeezed on two fronts: by rising renewable generation and a 7% fall in electricity demand due to COVID-19. Coal took the brunt, falling by 32%. Of that, hard coal generation fell 34% and lignite fell 29%. Even gas generation registered a fall of 6%, falling in eleven countries. As a result, EU-27 power sector CO2 emissions fell by about 23%
  4. Germany’s coal generation collapses below Poland’s for the first time. Poland now generates more coal-fired electricity than Germany, and also as much as the remaining 25 EU countries combined. Whilst most other countries, including Germany, have a plan to phase out coal, Poland doesn’t yet have a plan.


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