Fossil fuels generated less than a quarter of the EU’s electricity in April

Article written by Rosie Frost
Originally published by  (May 10, 2024)

Growth in wind and solar energy, as well as the restoration of hydropower, were the main factors in the decline in fossil fuel production.

Fossil fuels provided less than a quarter of the EU’s energy for the first time in April.

The good news comes from energy think tank Ember, which found that the proportion of electricity generated by fossil fuels in the bloc fell to a record low of 23 percent last month—a sharp drop of 22 percent compared to April 2023, despite an increase in demand. It also surpasses the previous record low of 27 percent from May 2023.

Wind and solar growth, as well as the recovery of hydropower, drove the fall in fossil fuel generation and increased the share of renewables in the electricity mix to a record 54 percent.

Wind and solar alone generated more than a third of the EU’s electricity in April, while gas and coal fell. Coal contributed just 8.6 percent of the energy mix, compared to 30 percent in 2023. Gas provided 12.1 percent of the EU’s electricity—a 22 percent decline year-on-year.

“The once unthinkable is happening before our eyes,” says Sarah Brown, Ember’s Europe Programme Director.

“Fossil fuels are on the way out of Europe’s power sector. Solar and wind have stepped up as the main players, proving they are ready to take on their role as the backbone of the modern clean electricity system.”

Which EU country saw the biggest drop in fossil fuel generation?

Germany saw the largest drop in fossil fuel generation in April when compared to last year. Seven coal fired power stations closed in the country at the end of March 2024 after their shutdown was postponed due to the energy crisis. Overall, electricity from fossil fuels fell by 26 percent in Germany, representing 32 percent of the total EU fall.

Italy saw the second biggest drop of 24 percent, contributing another 15 percent of the EU’s total reduction in fossil fuel electricity. France and the Netherlands came next, then Spain.

Emissions fell despite rising electricity demand

Electricity demand has been undergoing a mild revival since last October. It increased 0.4 per cent in the first four months of the year when compared to 2023.

Despite rising demand, fossil fuel electricity generation still fell as renewables displaced them from the mix. Brown points to coal as an example of this.

“From 2016 to 2023, coal fell by over 300 terawatt hours, and there was a similar rise in wind and solar over that period,” she explains.

As a result, wind and solar are significantly replacing coal in the structural decline.

The report from Ember says that while last month’s exceptional figures stand out, they are part of an established shift in the EU’s electricity transition, with emissions down 18 percent in the first four months of 2024 compared to the same period last year.

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