The European Union’s fossil fuel energy production hit a record low the first half of the year, think tank Ember Climate reported Wednesday, although green sources are struggling to fill the gap.
The decline in coal and gas generation was driven by a drop in electricity consumption across the bloc of 4.6% amid high power prices, which surged after Russia invaded Ukraine, upending gas supplies.
“The decline in fossil fuels is a sign of the times,” said Ember analyst Matt Ewen.
Coal generation was down 23%, accounting for less than 10% of the EU’s total electricity production for the first time ever in May, Ember reported.
While gas prices have fallen from “crisis highs” last year, they remain double the cost compared with the first half of 2021, the report said.
The drop in electricity consumption resulted from emergency measures implemented by nearly all EU members between November and March to combat rising prices.
Industrial demand, notably in Germany, had also declined over the period, the report said.
Fossil fuels now make up the “lowest share ever of the power mix” at 33%, Ember said.
The greatest declines in fossil fuel use year-over-year at more than 30% were seen in Portugal, Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia and Finland.
But reduced demand being the driver for the decline in fossil fuel use is not “sustainable or desirable,” Ember warned.
With demand expected to rise in the future, replacing fossil fuels with alternative sources needs to happen faster, Ewen said.
Solar power generation was up 13% in the first half of this year compared to the same period in 2022, while wind was up a more modest 4.8%.
Denmark and Portugal saw renewables account for more than 75% of the electricity mix while in Greece and Romania renewables for the first time exceeded 50% of the share of supply.
However the growth in clean energy was still not enough to compensate for the gap left by the fall in fossil fuels, the report found.
“A massive push, especially on solar and wind, is urgently needed to underpin a resilient economy across Europe,” Ewen said.