For the First Time, Renewables Produce More Electricity in the EU Than Coal

Driven by rapid growth in renewable energy in the UK and Germany, the European Union generated more electricity last year from renewable sources of energy than coal, according to a new report.

The report, issued by the think tanks Agora Energiewende and Sandbag, said that last year wind, solar, and biomass produced 20.9 percent of electricity in the EU, as compared to 20.6 percent for coal and 19.7 percent for natural gas. Nuclear energy remained the single-largest source of electricity production, generating 25.6 percent of the EU’s power.

 The report said that the UK and Germany continued to be the main drivers of growth in renewable energy, with the two nations accounting for 56 percent of the EU’s overall growth in renewable energy over the past three years. Given the bloc’s steady growth in renewable energy, the report said that the EU can realistically expect to produce 50 percent of its electricity from wind, solar, and biomass by 2030.

Noting the steady decline of coal, the report said, “This is incredible progress, considering just five years ago coal generation was more than twice that of wind, solar, and biomass.”

Still, despite the growth of renewables, the report said that because of growth in the industrial and transport sectors, overall greenhouse gas emissions in the EU rose last year by 1 percent — an indication of just how elusive CO2 reductions remain in today’s industrialized nations.

 The report noted that officials in Europe also realize they will have to reduce use of biomass as a source of energy, especially given growing concerns that burning wood pellets, which produce substantial amounts of CO2, is still considered a renewable energy source in Europe.