While 2020 will forever be remembered as the year we began adjusting to a new Covid-19 reality, for Europe it was also the year that the continent hit a major milestone in its energy use. 2020 saw Europe producing more energy from renewable resources than it did from fossil fuels.
Renewable Energy, Lower-Cost Energy
In addition to the big win vis-à-vis renewable energy, costs were significantly lower in countries with the best performance and the least dependence on fossil fuels. Germany, one of Europe’s most densely populated countries, had a strong performance, generating 42% of its energy from wind and sun. The country’s year-end cost per megawatt-hour was €23 as compared to neighboring coal-dependent Poland where energy prices came to €40 per megawatt-hour.
According to a report co-published by Ember and Agora Energiewende, two clean-energy think tanks, renewable energy generated by solar, hydropower, wind, and biomass accounted for 38% of Europe’s energy supply for 2020, which is a net increase of 34.6 % over the previous year. In contrast, fossil-fuel energy dependence fell by 37%.
These results are most encouraging, and several factors stood out in the final analysis. The countries that have been the most consistent and have played to their strengths are leading the charge to reduce dependency on fossil fuels.
Europe’s 2020 achievement is a benchmark that can be viewed by the rest of the world as a positive and encouraging step
Consistency is King
Denmark has been consistent in its ambition to reduce dependency on fossil fuels, having developed a strong plan to invest in appropriate infrastructure. Poland on the other hand remains heavily dependent on coal and has produced more energy from coal in 2020 than Germany did. Poland does not have a clearly articulated plan to wean itself from fossil fuels and has consequently been floundering.
The UK and Spain, however, have been leading the way. The UK has been utilizing its naturally windy coastline by implementing offshore wind turbines, and Spain has been making the most of its hot sunny days by harvesting solar energy. These achievements are promising and show that Europe is moving in the right direction to achieve its 2030 European Green Deal Targets of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55% compared to 1990 levels.
In order for Europe to meet its targets, it will require that all member countries commit to actionable, consistent plans. This has been a point reiterated by Agora Energiewende in its press release when it stated that “we therefore need strong climate policies, such as the Green Deal, to ensure steady progress.”
This will mean that Europe needs to invest now for the future and plan carefully how it will manage post-Covid-19 recovery plans. It will be important that all stimulus programs include room for flexibility while still remaining firm on the goal to decarbonize infrastructure.
Europe’s 2020 achievement is a benchmark that can be viewed by the rest of the world as a positive and encouraging step towards instituting changes to positively affect the global community, not just one continent.