As the pandemic took hold over Spring, one slight silver lining came in the form of an unusual stretch of pleasant weather across Europe. These sunny and windy conditions had an additional benefit in the form of increased renewable energy production and for the first time, electricity from renewable energy overtook fossil fuels as the main generator across the region.
'In the first half of 2020, renewables - wind, solar, hydro and bioenergy - generated 40% of the EU-27's electricity, whereas fossil fuels generated 34%,' according to London-based think-tank Ember. Just nine years ago, fossil fuels contributed twice as much electricity generation as renewables, marking dramatic progress in this sector.
Denmark and Ireland saw huge proportions of electricity generation from wind and solar with total shares of 64% and 49% respectively.
The UK also saw a record-breaking period for renewables as they made up almost half of electricity generation over the first three months of 2020. Aided by intense weather conditions, storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge played a large part in driving the 53% increase in offshore windfarm output across the region. Other renewable sources included solar (also positively impacted by weather conditions), hydro and bioenergy (burning wood chips).
Ireland felt the impact from these stormy weather conditions and renewables are now second to natural gas for electricity generation. They also have the second largest share of wind energy after Denmark, with 85% of renewable energy coming from this source.
Germany’s goal to reach a renewables share of 65% by 2030 took a big leap forward in the first six months of 2020 with a record 50.2% ‘green’ power contribution (according to utility industry association BDEW).
As many European pandemic recovery government policies and programmes are linked to increased investment in renewable energy, we will inevitably see sharper rises in contribution to electricity no matter what the weather has in store.
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