The analysis, from independent energy think tank Ember, indicates that wind and solar produced 22% of the EU’s electricity over the year, while gas generated 20%. The report further shows that the rise in renewable electricity generation helped to avoid €10 billion ($10.89 billion) in gas costs.
The use of coal, the most carbon-intense fossil fuel, rose by 1.5% over the year to generate 16% of European electricity—but this rise was short-lived, with thermal coal generation dropping markedly in the latter part of the year.
Meanwhile, hydropower and nuclear generation, which generate the lion’s share of EU electricity, both fell to the lowest levels seen in 20 years. Dry conditions across much of the continent caused river levels to fall, cutting hydroelectric generation, while nuclear reactors were taken offline—some for maintenance, others permanently.
The largest increase in terms of renewables was seen in solar, which surged by 24%, delivering an additional 39 terawatt hours of electricity over the previous year. No less than 20 EU nations achieved a record share of solar generation.
Overall, the year saw electricity demand decline, with a fall in demand of 7.9% in the last quarter of 2022 compared with the same period in 2021—a drop Ember attributed to warmer weather, affordability concerns, and energy-saving behaviours among Europeans.
Ember forecast the carbon intensity of EU electricity to fall even further in 2023, as nuclear power stations come back online, and wind and solar deployments continue. The analysts forecast a 20% fall in fossil fuel-based generation over 2023.
Ember noted that the first two weeks of 2023 alone had seen a 29% fall in the use of fossil fuel generation. Coal and gas use are expected to fall further over the year: the analysts found that the bloc used only a third of the 22 million tons of extra coal it imported to hedge against factors such as nuclear reactor closures and the cessation of natural gas from Russia. Ember concluded that EU nations remain just as committed to phasing out coal as they had been prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while the shift away from gas for electricity production would continue unabated.
The ember report can be seen here https://ember-climate.org/insights/research/european-electricity-review-2023/