The share of renewables in the European electricity mix hit a record high of 34.6% in 2019, a year that also saw power sector emissions fall by a staggering 12%, according to a new study.
The European Power Sector in 2019 report from think-tanks Agora Energiewende and Sandbag shows that coal-fired generation collapsed by 24% in the EU, with about half of this capacity replaced by natural-gas-fired power and the other half wind and solar.
This meant that, for the first time, wind and solar provided more electricity than coal in the EU, with the renewable sources more than doubling their market share since 2013.
The largest reductions in wholesale electricity prices took place in countries where wind and solar expanded the most, the think-tanks adds, pointing out that 2019 saw world-record low auction prices for both offshore wind (£39 [$51] per MWh) in the UK and solar (€14.80 [$16.30] per MWh) in Portugal.
Wind generation increased by 14% — an addition of 54TWh — across the EU last year to a total of 432TWh, with almost three quarters of the rise coming from five countries: Germany, the UK, France, Sweden and Spain. Higher average wind speeds also helped boost output.
Germany had by far the highest amount of wind energy in 2019, with 126TWh, followed by the UK (65TWh), Spain (55TWh), France (35TWh), Sweden (22TWh), Italy (20TWh) and Denmark (16TWh).
Solar energy increased by 7% (9.5TWh) across the EU in 2019 to 137TWh, with the Netherlands and Spain accounting for more than half of the growth.
Germany also took the lead in solar energy with 47TWh, followed by Italy (24TWh), Spain (15TWh), the UK (13TWh), and France (12TWh).
Coal, nuclear and hydro generation all fell compared to 2018 levels — by 149.5TWh, 5.9TWh and 21.5TWh respectively — while overall consumption also fell by 56TWh to 3,222TWh, partly due to a warmer winter.
In 2019, renewables provided 34.6% of EU energy — up from 32.8% in 2018 — with wind power taking the largest share (13.4%), followed by hydro (10.8%), biomass (6.2%) and solar (4.2%). Nuclear provided 25.5% of European energy, followed by natural gas (21.7%), coal (14.6%) and other fossil fuels (3.6%).