A new report reveals that 56 per cent of electricity generation in the European Union came from low carbon sources in 2014.
The study from electricity trade group Eurelectric highlights the changing energy mix across Europe and shows a rise in the use of renewables against a drop in fossil fuel generation.
In ‘Power Statistics and Trends’, Eurelectric identifies the five dimensions of the Energy Union as being security of supply, an internal energy market, energy efficiency, decarbonisation and innovation.
Eurelectric’s data shows that in 2014, total power generation in the EU was 3025 TWh – a 3 per cent drop from 2013 – with 27 per cent generated from nuclear, 42 per cent from fossil fuels and 28 per cent from renewables. At the same time, final electricity consumption has been decreasing gradually since 2008.
Renewable power generation increased by 38 TWh from 2013 to 2014, while fossil fuel generation decreased by 121 TWh over the same period.
Hard coal and lignite accounted for generation of 759 TWh compared to 812 TWh in 2013, while gas-fired was 459 TWh, down from the previous year’s 523 TWh. Interestingly, decommissioning of coal plants peaked in 2013, and in 2014 more coal fired capacity was added to the power system than was decommissioned.
The total share of renewable installed capacity increased from 33 per cent in 2012 to 37 per cent in 2014, with wind and solar growing at the fastest rate, from 11 to 13 per cent and 7 to 9 per cent respectively.
The share of solar and wind power comprised more than 20 per cent of the power mix in four European countries: Denmark (45 per cent), Spain and Portugal (both 24 per cent), and Ireland (20 per cent).
With regard to interconnections, the report found that at the end of 2014, 13 European countries had interconnection levels ranging between 10-30 per cent: three countries had interconnection levels ranging between 30-50 per cent and four had interconnection levels above 50 per cent.
Spain, Portugal, Italy, Poland, Romania, the UK, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta were found to have interconnection levels below 10 per cent.
The report states that with the implementation of the Projects of Common Interest across the EU, interconnectivity is expected to be improved by 2020, especially in regions which are currently less connected, such as the Baltic and Balkan regions.
On power demand, Eurelectric found that most countries experienced a decrease in electricity consumption in 2014, with the biggest drop being seen in The Netherlands, France, Luxembourg, the UK and Switzerland.
However some Eastern European countries such as Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary and Lithuania saw their power consumption increase, along with Cyprus, Ireland, Portugal and Turkey.
Eurelectric said that the increase in renewable capacity “is the result of the widespread use of different types of support schemes”. The report shows that the costs of renewable technologies have been falling alongside a decrease in wholesale prices, “making it difficult to invest in any technology”.
“Some thermal generation capacity has been decommissioned due to old age, unprofitability and the emission limits imposed by the European environment legislation,” the report states. “Remaining fossil fuel fired plants, including brand new ones, still face difficulties to remain profitable due to a decrease in running hours and low wholesale prices.”
However, despite the difficult economic situation, the report shows that power companies are still committed to investing in research and development, with the total R&D expenditure of 13 major European utilities reaching €1.4bn ($1.5bn) in 2014.
Accelerated innovation in power supply technologies and business models for energy efficiency have been estimated to be worth €70bn to the EU economy by 2030.