Wind and solar power have “stepped into the baseload role” in Europe, with “very little coal-fired plant running and less gas-fired plant than usual”, according to UK-based analyst Cornwall Insight.

Due to the decrease in electricity demand amid coronavirus lockdowns, and the fact that wind and solar output has priority on the grid, system operators across five key European countries have been dealing with record proportions of renewable energy in their electricity mixes, the analyst reports.

“Arguably, renewables have stepped into the baseload role, with gas and limited amounts of coal fulfilling a peaking role both when demand does pick up, and when renewables output dips,” said senior analyst Tom Andrews. “Many system operators are now proving able to manage grids at 70% or more renewable energy and with a much lower level of demand than would — even a few months ago — have been expected.”

Cornwall analysed electricity demand, output and carbon emissions from the power sectors in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain between 23 March and 19 April.

It found that output from gas-fired power plants in the UK slumped by almost 90% during the period; France met its lower power demand “without running fossil fuel plant”; Germany’s power sector cut its carbon intensity by 36%; Italy’s CO2 per unit of electricity fell by 16%; while historic low levels of emissions were seen in Spain.