Coal and oil-fired power plants are back online across Europe. Germany built a new liquified natural gas (LNG) terminal in a record ten months. The UK approved its first coal mine in thirty years. Has the energy transition been overturned?
No. It’s just the opposite.
Europe hasn’t traded-in its green credibility for energy security. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, rather, has emboldened its move away from fossil-fuels. On top of phasing out coal, the focus now is on rapidly cutting gas demand.
A deluge of clean energy spending is coming. The investment zeitgeist of the decade is the race to zero emissions.
For the first time ever, renewables accounted for a greater share of the EU’s electricity production than fossil fuels.
In 2022 wind and solar generated a fifth of the continent’s power, or 22 percent, overtaking the 20 percent generated by natural gas, and comfortably bypassing coal’s 16 percent share. Hydro and nuclear accounted for the rest. Solar grew a record 24 percent on its own as twenty EU countries relied on it more than ever.
High prices and demand constraints limited gas-based power generation, while coal’s resurgence was overblown. Its share rose by a mere 1.5 percent. Were it not for the 1-in-500-year drought that restrained hydro, or the unexpected nuclear outages in France resulting in the lowest output in thirty years, coal’s contribution would have likely fallen.
Nine of the twenty-six coal units brought back on emergency standby provided zero generation, with the rest running at 18 percent of capacity. Higher coal imports were stockpiled, and not burnt, indicating the purchases were preventive.
According to Ember, an independent energy think tank, fossil fuel electricity generation across the EU will plummet by 20 percent in 2023, nearly double the record 11...