In Europe, Renewables Soar as COVID Clobbers Coal

April 17, 2020

David Keating in Forbes:

The dramatic slowdown across Europe due to Coronavirus lockdowns has caused electricity demand to plumet by one-tenth in the first three months of 2020 – falling to its lowest level since the Second World War. 

This has caused power generation across the continent to fall. But in a potentially positive sign for Europe’s energy transition, fossil fuel generation is falling far more than renewable power.

According to an analysis by the Wärtsilä Energy Transition Lab, coal-based power generation has fallen by over a quarter (25.5%) across the European Union and United Kingdom in the first three months of 2020 compared to 2019. Meanwhile the share of renewable energy in the EU and UK has risen to 43%.

The impact has been even more stark in the last month, with coal generation collapsing by almost one third (29%) between 10March and 10April compared to the same period in 2019. At this moment it makes up only 12% of total EU and UK generation. By contrast, renewables delivered almost half (46%) of generation – an increase of 8% compared to 2019.

The result has been an unprecedented fall in carbon emissions from the power sector, with emission intensity falling by almost 20% compared to the same 10 March to 10 April period last year.

The analysis comes from the Wärtsilä Energy Transition Lab, a new data platform developed by the Wärtsilä Corporation, a Finnish company which manufactures and services power sources in energy markets.

“The impact of the Covid-19 crisis on European energy systems is extraordinary,” said Björn Ullbro, Vice President for Europe & Africa at Wärtsilä Energy Business. “We are seeing levels of renewable electricity that some people believed would cause systems to collapse, yet they haven’t – in fact they are coping well. The question is, what does this mean for the future?”

“What we can see today is how our energy systems cope with much more renewable power – knowledge that will be invaluable to accelerate the energy transition.”

Renewables had not been expected to reach a share of half of power generation until the end of the decade, Ullbro said. Though many had raised concerns about Europe’s existing power grid being unable to handle a large share of intermittent renewables, so far the grids have held up without a problem.

The Europe-wide figures are reflected in national developments as well. In the UK, renewables now have a 43% share of generation. This is up 10% compared to the same 10 March to 10 April period in 2019. Coal power is down 35% and gas down 24%, according to the report.

In Germany, where the renewables market is already far more advanced, renewable energy now makes up 60% of the overall share, with coal genertion at 44%. This has resulted in a fall in the carbon intensity of its electricity of over 30%.

“Total renewable generation has remained at pre-crisis levels with low electricity prices, combined with renewables-friendly policy measures, squeezing out fossil fuel power generation, especially coal,” said Ullbro. “This sets the scene for the next decade of the energy transition.”

Dave Keating is based in Brussels, where he has been covering EU politics and policy for 14 years.

7 Responses to “In Europe, Renewables Soar as COVID Clobbers Coal”


  1. Reblogged this on The Most Revolutionary Act and commented:
    According to an analysis by the Wärtsilä Energy Transition Lab, coal-based power generation has fallen by over a quarter (25.5%) across the European Union and United Kingdom in the first three months of 2020 compared to 2019. Meanwhile the share of renewable energy in the EU and UK has risen to 43%.

  2. redskylite Says:

    While this seems to be good news, it is very short on the geologic time-span, and having seen “journalists” like David Rose play with short term dips in the temperature trends in the daily mail, I suspect when the current situation stabilizes many countries/states may start burning fossils with a catch-up vengeance, wiping out any short term gains.

    Lets hope not.

    ====================================

    “Solar generation in Germany experienced its best week yet, accounting for 23 per cent of the country’s net electricity generation for the week starting April 6, helping renewable power generation reach a similarly impressive 55.4 per cent share.”

    https://reneweconomy.com.au/solar-has-record-breaking-week-in-germany-provides-23-of-generation-16305/

  3. John Oneill Says:

    ‘In Germany, where the renewables market is already far more advanced, renewable energy now makes up 60% of the overall share, with coal genertion at 44%.’
    The maths there sounds a bit suspect, especially since nuclear is normally about ten to 15 percent of the grid ( even after half of the reactors have been closed ), and gas is nearly as big.
    Wartsila, the company that commissioned this report, make huge two-stroke piston engines, originally designed to power ships, but they come in handy for instant power when the wind dies. https://www.wartsila.com/media/news/27-01-2020-wartsila-signs-a-flexible-power-plant-deal-and-maintenance-agreement-in-germany-2624253.
    Power sector emissions at the moment , in grams per kilowatt/hour-
    Germany 246 – 25% wind, 17% coal, 8% gas, 15% nuclear
    Great Britain 143 – 31% wind, 0% coal, 21% gas, 28% nuclear
    France 25 – 4% wind, 0% coal, 1% gas, 81% nuclear
    https://www.electricitymap.org/?countryCode=DE&page=country

  4. Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

    We are seeing the effect of cancelling of perpetual growth. Clean air and real reduction in GHG. Loverly!
    Distribution of wealth in many wealthy countries. For example in Oz, unemployment benefits, static for years and years, could not come up with a small increase. They were doubled overnight. Why was it not done before??
    Utopia is impossible, until it is not. Just observing, just saying.

  5. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Places with chronic air pollution will probably have the highest death rates from CoVID 19. I’m thinking of places like Mumbai, Bogotá and Warsaw.


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