EU ‘coal rebound’ in 2022 smaller than expected: report – POLITICO
The EU’s use of coal-fired electricity increased last year as countries faced energy supply shortages linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but the increase n was not as high as many feared, according to a report on Tuesday.
This is partly thanks to an increase in renewable energy production, which generated a record 22% of the EU’s electricity last year.
As EU countries rushed to shore up energy supplies after Russia cut off gas flows following its invasion of Ukraine and the bloc imposed sanctions on Moscow’s coal and crude oil , some have turned to mothballed coal-fired power plants to replace lost supplies.
The move led to a 7% increase in EU coal-fired power generation compared to 2021, accounting for 16% of EU electricity, but the situation “could have been much worse”, according to the Ember think tank report.
The report indicates a drop in coal production in the last four months of 2022, mainly due to lower electricity demand. The 26 coal units brought back online across the bloc last year ran at just 18% average utilization between October and December, it says, while the EU only burned a third of the additional 22 million tons of coal it imported as a fail-safe.
“Any fear of a coal rebound is now over,” said Dave Jones, chief data analyst at Ember.
A surge in wind and solar power, which again overtook coal use and overtook natural gas for the first time, helped contain the rebound in coal.
The biggest jump was seen in solar generation, which rose by a quarter – or 39 terawatt hours – last year, according to the report. The Netherlands has become the EU’s leading producer of solar energy, accounting for 14% of its electricity mix.
The European Commission’s climate chief, Frans Timmermans, said the report shows the institution’s target of reaching a 45% share of renewables in the bloc’s overall energy mix by 2030 is “ambitious but quite achievable”.
According to the report, fossil fuel production is expected to decline another 20% this year, in part due to solar and wind generation.
The think tank also expects an increase in hydropower output from the bloc, which was crippled by a historic drought in 2022, and pointed out that many French nuclear reactors are expected to return to service this year.