According to research, new renewable energy deployed in the EU last year primarily replaced expensive gas power rather than more polluting coal, but still fell short of what is required to minimize global warming. According to Ember, a London-based NGO, coal flow in Europe declined by only 3% in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019, far less than the 29% reduction in 2019 compared to 2017.
Last year, the polluting fuel contributed for 15% of EU energy output, down from 22% in 2017. Before gas supply issues drove up gas prices in the first half of 2021, freshly installed renewables mostly displaced coal and nuclear power. However, beginning in July, the new renewable energy nearly entirely replaced gas.
Ember anticipated that emissions from the EU’s energy sector that affect climate change would need to decline by 6% every year to achieve the minimum net zero level by 2035, but they fell by around half. According to the research, “the present gas issue should be a major wake-up call.” “Both coal and gas must be phased out quickly.”
Weaning the world off coal was a significant vow made at the United Nations’ COP26 climate meeting in November, and it is regarded as a crucial step toward reaching global net-zero emissions. Action is required to ensure that Europe’s coal phase-out remains on track. Legislation is the only option to ensure that coal-fired power plants are decommissioned by 2030. Volatile gas prices have demonstrated that you cannot rely only on market forces.
In 2021, fossil fuels will account for 37% of EU power production, up from 39% in 2019. Renewables contributed another 37%, with nuclear accounting for the remainder. When gas costs climbed, power companies attempted to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy sources and coal. Rates grew so much that switching to coal became more economical for energy providers, even if it required purchasing more permits at higher prices under the EU’s carbon trading plan.
The price of credits sold under the program, which allow the holder to release one tonne of CO2 each credit, has roughly quadrupled in the last year, to about €90 per tonne of CO2. According to the research, the slowdown in the coal phase-out meant that emissions from the EU’s energy sector were not on pace to restrict global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels. But per the International Energy Agency, if we stay on pace, emissions from the energy sector in industrialized nations should be net zero by 2035.
Despite the fact that some EU nations, like Spain and Greece, have shuttered coal-fired power plants since 2019, this has been mainly offset by a rise in coal consumption in Poland. However, for the first time in 2021, the block’s wind and solar power generated more electricity than gas. The rise in energy prices has spurred some energy sector officials and analysts to call the transition to renewables into doubt. However, climate change specialists have discounted the link.