Renewable energy’s share of the power generation mix across the EU surged by almost 10 percentage points to 40% during the first half of 2020, and could reach as much as 60% by the end of the decade, European utility federation Eurelectric has said.

The dramatic growth, which compares to a renewables share of only 20% in 2010 and 34% in 2019, comes as the bloc’s coal phase-out accelerated steeply, according to Eurelectric’s Power Barometer, pushing the generation from fossil fuels down to 18% in the period.

“This year, the power sector has proven its crucial value for society by providing hospitals, government offices and millions of home-working Europeans with clean and reliable power throughout the pandemic,” Eurelectric secretary generation Kristian Ruby said.

“On top, the sector is on a fast and firm path towards decarbonisation.”

Factoring in nuclear power, Eurelectric said that by 2030, 81% of the EU’s electricity could be generated by carbon-free sources.

The utilities advocacy body warned, however, that a further acceleration is needed in electrification to meet the EU’s 2030 targets. For Europe’s 2050 net zero ambition, the energy use in transport, buildings, and industry also must shift to low-carbon sources, while building out the clean power capacity.

For that, wind and solar capacities must double, Eurelectric cautioned, which only is possible if serious impediments to the build-is out are removed.

Among the factors hampering the renewables expansion are the Covid-19 pandemic that this year caused restrictions that have delayed many projects, and most importantly slow permitting procedures.

To speed up electrification, the group also calls for a roll-out of an adequate charging infrastructure for electric cars, and measures to electrify buildings (ie. heating) and industry.

“In order to meet the 2030 targets, or go even further, we must urgently remove the specific barriers holding back the progress on the ground,” Ruby said.

The EU should take steps to avoid unfair competition and imports of unabated coal-based electricity from third countries, Eurelectric said, after power imports from outside the EU in the past five years have surged to over 20TWh, from 3TWh before.

Due to lax energy and climate regulations, the average CO2 intensity of this imported electricity is two to three times higher than that of the one produced in Europe, the group claims.