EU renewables overtake coal

C&I Issue 2, 2018

Renewables outstripped coal power for the first time in electricity generation in Europe in 2017, according to a new report. The European Power Sector in 2017 – by think-tanks Sandbag and Agora Energiewende – predicts renewables could provide half of Europe’s electricity by 2030.

Wind, solar and biomass generation collectively rose by 12% in 2017 – to 679 Terawatt hours, generating 21% of Europe’s electricity, and contributing to 30% of the energy mix. ‘This is incredible progress considering just five years ago coal generation was more than twice that of wind, solar and biomass,’ the report states.

However, growth is variable. Germany and the UK alone contributed to 56% of the expansion in the past three years. There is also a ‘bias’ for wind, with a 19% increase in 2017, due to good wind conditions and huge investments, the report says. ‘This is good news now the biomass boom is over, but bad news in that solar was responsible for just 14% of the renewables growth in 2014 to 2017.’

New analysis by trade group WindEurope backs up the findings on wind power, showing that countries across Europe installed more offshore capacity than ever before: 3.14GW. This corresponds to 560 new offshore wind turbines across 17 wind farms. Fourteen projects were fully completed and connected to the grid, including the first floating offshore wind farm. Europe now has a total installed offshore wind capacity of 15.78GW.

Germany remains top of the European league, with the largest total installed wind-power capacity; it installed 42% of the EU’s new capacity in 2017; followed by Spain, the UK and France. Denmark boasts the largest share of wind in its power mix at 44% of electricity demand

Separately, the US solar industry lost 9800 jobs in 2017, according to The Solar Foundation’s annual National Solar Jobs Census, the first time jobs have decreased since the first survey in 2010. It attributes the 4% drop to losses in mature markets like California and Massachusetts. The industry has also been concerned about tariffs on imported solar panels. At the same time, the long-term trend continues to show significant growth. Employment in the solar industry far outpaces that of the coal, wind and nuclear energy industries.

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