Europe saw a record drop in fossil fuel power last year, according to a new analysis. For the first time, wind supplied more electricity than natural gas.
The E.U. power sector is undergoing a “monumental shift,” said Sarah Brown, an analyst at the energy think tank Ember, which undertook the analysis. “Fossil fuels are playing a smaller role than ever as a system with wind and solar as its backbone comes into view.”
In 2023, coal generation fell by 26 percent, while gas generation fell by 15 percent. Along with a record buildout of renewables and a downturn in demand, the decline of fossil fuels led to an unprecedented drop in emissions from generating electricity, which fell by 19 percent.
The figures are welcome news in Europe, which is working to shift away from fossil fuels even as war and inflation roil energy markets. After Russia invaded Ukraine, exports of natural gas to Europe dwindled. The drop-off sparked fears of a resurgence of coal, and it prompted the building of new infrastructure to import liquefied natural gas from overseas.
But by ramping up wind and solar and tamping down on demand, Europe avoided a surge in coal burning and kept the use of natural gas in check. Altogether, renewables generated nearly half of Europe’s power last year, while fossil fuels supplied roughly a third, and nuclear around a quarter.
Looking ahead, analysts say Europe will need to double down on renewable power to keep up with the projected rise in demand from the adoption of heat pumps and electric cars.