Europe goes greener before your eyes
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Renewable energy sources for the first time became the principal component of electricity generation in Europe, overtaking fossil fuels, according to research by German energy analysts Ember and Agora Energiewende.

    Data for 2020 show that renewables accounted for 38 % of generation compared to 34.6 % a year earlier while the share of fossil fuels stood at 37 %. Most “green” power was provided by solar and wind power – with output doubling over the past five years.

     Solar generation rose by 9 % in 2020 and wind by 15 % — combined they accounted for one fifth of all power generated throughout the continent. Growth in generation from biofuels practically stopped and hydro power remained at its previous level.

    The highest level of use of solar and wind power is in Denmark, where both account for more than 60 % of all electricity produced, followed by Ireland (35 %), Germany (33 %) and Spain (29 %).

   But experts say that even such growth levels for renewables are insufficient if Europe is to achieve the aims of its “green deal” by 2030 – to do that, growth will have to be three times higher. Production levels between 2020 and 2030 will have to climb to an average of 100 Terawatt hours a year compared to 38 TWh a year over the past decade.

    The analysts’ report noted that coal-fired power generation fell 20 % last year in Europe and has halved over the past five years. But a decline in demand linked to the COVID pandemic and the growing popularity of renewables were of equal importance in explaining the slump in production.

    As demand returns to normal levels this year, use of solar and wind energy is sure to rise more quickly, the analysts said.

    Electricity generation from gas dipped only 4 % last year and nuclear power generation endured what was probably its biggest decline ever – 10 %.

     “The study also found that Europe’s electricity was 29 percent less carbon-intensive in 2020 than in 2015, with the carbon intensity of European electricity generation reaching a record low of 226 grams of CO2 per kilowatt-hour in 2020 compared to 317 grams in 2015,” the analysts said.

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