Fossil fuels' share in EU power mix at lowest level since records began -report

FILE PHOTO: Electrical power pylons next to wind turbines near Weselitz, Germany

By Kate Abnett

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Fossil fuels produced just 33% of the EU's power in the first half of this year, the lowest share on record based on data going back to 1990, researchers said on Wednesday.

The main reason was lower electricity demand, which meant rising renewable energy output could meet a bigger proportion of electricity demand, the think tank Ember said. Mild weather, consumption-cutting policies and high gas and power prices, in the wake of Russia slashing gas deliveries to Europe last year, have encouraged industries and consumers to curb energy use.

EU power demand in January-June was 4.6% lower than the same period in 2022 and the 33% generated by fossil fuels was down from 38% in the same period a year earlier.

Across the EU's 27 member countries, fossil fuel-based power generation fell by 17% in the first half of the year, compared with the first half of 2022, Ember said. Coal, the most CO2-emitting fossil fuel, posted the steepest decline.

In May, coal produced less than 10% of EU electricity for the first time on record.

The drop in gas-fuelled power generation was less steep, as EU countries replaced Russian gas with alternatives.

Clean energy generation increased as countries continue to install wind farms and solar panels. However, while wind and solar produced 23TWh more power in January-June 2023, compared with the same period last year, Ember said action to integrate more renewables into power grids was urgently needed.

In countries including Spain and Poland, solar power has at times been cut off to avoid overwhelming power grids or because it is cheaper to cut off solar power than switch off fossil fuel power plants.

"There are hot-spots of grid congestion and renewables curtailment," Ember analyst Chris Rosslowe said.

"One really quick thing that could be done is accelerating the deployment of storage on the grid. Battery storage projects can be constructed very quickly," he said.

Hydropower generation in January-June recovered compared with last year's drought-driven lows, while nuclear output was slightly lower year on year.

(Reporting by Kate Abnett; Editing by Susan Fenton)