Emissions from the EU power sector fell by 4.5% in 2016, according to a new report, which examines the 2016 EU energy transition, from the think tanks Sandbag and Agora Energiewende.
The reduction in emissions was largely due to a large coal-gas switch. There was an EU-wide reduction in coal generation of 94 TWh, combined with an increase in gas generation of 101 TWh. Half of this took place in the UK, but switching also occurred in Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, and Greece. The report pointed to Carbon Price Support as the mechanism that increased UK costs for coal generators in 2016 and brought about the significant shift.
The move away from coal significantly outweighed the negatively contributing factors of both a fall in nuclear generation and unconducive weather conditions for renewables. Despite the poor wind and solar conditions, there was a slight increase in renewables generation due to a growth in capacity. Renewable generation increased from 29.2% of European generation in 2015 to 29.6% in 2016. Interestingly, renewables (including hydro) were the largest contributor to the generation mix, followed by nuclear. Since 2010, Denmark has seen a 25% growth in renewables, followed by Lithuania with an increase of 22%.
The report showed that energy efficiency measures implemented over the last six years have covered the economic growth. Over the six-year period, although real GDP in the EU grew by 7%, electricity consumption fell by 3%. In the UK, electricity use fell by 6% between 2010 and 2016. However, the think tanks advise that increased energy efficiency measures will be needed to bring about a significant reduction in consumption and to compensate for increased electrification of transport, heating, and cooling.
Agora and Sandbag expect to see a further reduction in fossil fuel generation in 2017 if French nuclear generation returns to normal and the weather conditions for wind and solar improve. The price of offshore wind more than halved in 2016 and the price of solar panels fell by 30%, which bodes well for investment. However, Sandbag and Agora are calling for a post-2020 EU renewables framework to be established as soon as possible to provide long-term certainty to investors.