European Electricity Review 2023 by EMBER

Coal generation has been falling since the start of winter, and as the electricity transition heats up, falling fossil fuel power—especially gas—is set to be the story of 2023.

Europe’s political response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 was to accelerate its electricity transition. There is now a focus on rapidly cutting gas demand—at the same time as phasing out coal. This means a massive scale-up in clean energy is on its way.

In 2022, wind and solar generated a record fifth of EU electricity (22%), for the first time overtaking fossil gas (20%), and remaining above coal power (16%). However, the shift away from fossil fuels was put on hold by the twin crises in Europe’s electricity system in 2022. A 1-in-500 year drought across Europe led to the lowest level of hydro generation since at least 2000, and there were widespread unexpected French nuclear outages just as German nuclear units were closing.

This created a large 185 TWh gap in generation, equal to 7% of Europe’s total electricity demand in 2022. Five-sixths of the gap was made up by more wind and solar generation and a fall in electricity demand. But the remaining sixth was met by increased fossil generation. Since coal was less expensive than gas, coal accounted for the majority of the increase, rising 7% (+28 TWh) in 2022, compared to 2021. As a result, EU power sector emissions rose by 3.9% (+26 MtCO2) in 2022 compared to 2021. Gas generation was almost unchanged (+0.8%), and because gas was already more expensive than coal in 2021, there was no further switching from gas into coal in 2022

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