The EU’s electrification will start in high gear in 2022


Europe accelerated its transition to electricity in 2022 in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to a new study published by German energy think tank Ember on Tuesday (31 January).

Wind and solar generated 22% of total electricity, overtaking fossil gas (20%) for the first time and remaining ahead of coal (16%).

However, gas and coal did not decline, as hydropower generation fell to a 22-year low due to the 500-year drought.

The misfortunes of French nuclear power and the withdrawal of German nuclear power would account for an additional 185 terawatt hours per generation, or 7% of total electricity demand in Europe in 2022.

85% of that was offset by more wind and solar power generation, but the rest had to be replaced by gas and coal. In 2022, when coal becomes cheaper, consumption increases by 7%, increasing total EU electricity emissions by 3.9%.

But the dreaded winter coal boom failed to materialize and coal burning fell sharply in the last four months of the year as electricity demand fell 7.9%. households and industries compared to the previous year – a decrease of almost 10.2% observed during the Covid-19 shutdowns in the spring of 2020.

“Any fear of coal taking off is now gone,” said Dave Jones, chief analyst at Ember.

Fossil electricity production is expected to fall by 20% in 2023 as hydropower returns to near-normal levels, France’s nuclear fleet returns to service and rapid deployment of wind and solar is expected to accelerate further.

“The only deterrent in the transition period will be the renunciation of nuclear weapons as Germany completes the phase-out,” it said.

Dutch sun seals

At the heart of the transition is an increase in solar capacity, which will avoid a record 39 TWh in 2022 (up 24%) and €10 billion in gas losses.

This is the largest absolute increase in solar energy production, exceeding the previous year by 47%.

The Netherlands is increasing its share of solar power the most of any EU country, adding 1.8 gigawatts (38%) in one year.

The country, which meets 14% of its electricity demand with solar energy, has risen to the top of the group by one percentage point ahead of Hungary and Greece.

In total, 7.3% of electricity was produced by solar panels.

The report notes that it is “clear” that the 2022 energy crisis will accelerate the transition to clean electricity.

In the first half of 2022, sales of heat pumps doubled in Poland, Italy, Austria and the Netherlands, sales of electric vehicles continue to grow, and hydrogen electrolyzers are set for a radical change in 2022.

Ember’s modeling shows that Europe could achieve a clean energy system by 2035, but also warns that rapid adoption of renewables could increase electricity consumption.

“One thing is clear: the current stagnation in electricity demand should not be a reason to slow down the introduction of clean energy,” the report concluded.

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