Renewables on rise in EU power generation

Renewables on rise in EU power generation

The EU has achieved its next milestone in terms of green energy with Portugal and Germany already producing more than half of their energy from renewables. However, despite this progress, the EU still has a significant journey ahead to reach its 2030 goal of obtaining 42.5% of energy from green sources.

Portugal leads the way in EU renewables

Last year, the country produced 61% of its energy from renewables compared to 49% in 2022. Overall, Portugal generated 31.2 terrawatt-hours (TWh) from renewables in 2023 with wind energy contributing 25% to consumption, and hydro, solar, and biomass standing at 23%, 7%, and 6%, respectively.

Electricity generated by non-renewable sources accounted for only 19% of the grid in 2023, a promising shift given the country’s goal of securing 85% of its annual electricity needs from renewable sources by 2030.

Germany increases its share of renewables

Germany has achieved another milestone in renewable energy by increasing its share of the country’s power grids by 6.6%, bringing renewables to account for 55% of its energy. Among the renewable sources, the breakdown is 31.1% from offshore wind, 12.1% from solar, 8.4% from biomass, 3.4% from hydro power, and the remainder from other renewables. This significant step brings Germany closer to its 2030 goal when green energy is expected to account for 80% of the country’s energy mix. Germany has already phased out nuclear power plants and aims to abandon most of its coal generation.

Commenting on the achievements, Economy Minister Robert Habeck noted that “the 50% mark for renewables was broken for the first time,” adding that measures aiming to simplify planning and approvals were beginning to have an effect. Germany’s efforts toward renewables have also been reflected on the labor market with employment in renewables reaching 387,000 in 2022 compared to 309,000 in 2019.

EU’s efforts towards renewables in 2023

In 2023, notable progress toward renewables was also recorded in other EU countries. In total, in 2023, EU countries increased wind and solar power generation by 54.2 TWh and 30.2 TWh, respectively, compared to the previous year. Overall, 56 GW of solar fleet was installed in the EU in 2023, with Germany increasing its solar capacity by 14.1 GW, Spain by 8.2 GW, Italy by 4.8 GW, Poland by 4.6 GW, and the Netherlands by 4.1 GW. Total solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity in 2023 reached 263 GW, a 27 % increase from 2022, with Germany and Spain being the largest PV capacity holders at 82 GW and 36 GW, respectively.

In terms of wind energy, the EU has installed between 16.2 GW and 17.1 GW of wind capacity, mainly in Northern Europe. Germany added 3.2 GW of new capacity, the Netherlands added 2.7 GW, while Sweden and Poland installed 2.5 GW and 1.5 GW, respectively. Power generation from wind reached its peak during the second half of 2023, thanks to strong wind conditions. In December, wind generation reached 53.2 TWh, up 34.3% year-on-year.

Hydro power recorded an increase of 50.6 TWh last year but remained below 2021 levels. Nuclear generation saw a slight increase of 8.9 TWh but, at the same time, remains 100 TWh below the 2021 level of 697.8 TWh. Traditional sources such as coal and gas recorded a significant decrease in 2023 with the highest decline being recorded for coal generation.

Fig.1. Power generation change in all EU countries, 2023 vs. 2022

Source: Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University | SIPA

EU 2030 target toward green energy sources

To reduce its carbon emissions, the EU has established objectives for 2030, and renewables play a key role in its plans. The bloc aims to achieve a minimum of 42.5% of energy from renewables by 2030 but, while progress was evident in 2023, the EU still has a long way to go to meet these objectives.

Fig.2. The EU’s share of renewables in the energy mix over the last 20 years

Source: Euronews

Use of fossil fuels declining

According to the eighth annual European Electricity Review by Ember analyses, the EU has achieved its next milestone towards reducing the use of fossil fuels as the contribution of fossil fuels to the EU energy mix last year declined by 19% dropping, for the first time on record, by one third. Electricity production from coal decreased by a record 26%, reaching the lowest level ever registered and it currently constitutes just 12% of the EU energy mix. Gas generation also saw a significant drop of 15%, marking the largest annual reduction since 1990, with gas accounting for only 17% of the energy mix last year. Importantly, both the reduction in gas and coal occurred simultaneously, indicating that the decline was not due to switching between different energy sources.