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Renewable Generation Records Fell “Like Dominos” Across EU in May

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Sunny, windy weather and dampened demand due to coronavirus lockdowns helped the EU’s electricity grid become the greenest it has ever been last month.

Renewable generation records toppled “like dominos” across the continent in May, according to data from Wärtsilä Energy Transition Lab. On 24 May, 55% of Europe’s electricity was generated by wind, solar and hydro power—a proportion of renewable generation that wasn’t expected for at least a decade.

Supercharged renewable generation slashed emissions across the continent: the carbon intensity of Europe’s power supply was down more than 20% compared to May 2019, with a third less coal generation. In the UK, the grid has been powered without coal for a record-shattering 55 days, 17 hours and counting, raising the prospect of a coal-free summer years earlier than anticipated.

Individual countries also saw record-high renewable productivity. Germany sourced 58% of its power from renewables throughout May, while the UK averaged 48% from renewables. On 30 April, Spain generated 74% of its power from renewables.

Cheaper renewables have been boosted by slackened demand, down 10% across the continent compared to last year. 

Matti Rautkivi, Wärtsilä Energy Group’s director of strategy and business development, said the dominance of renewables during the unique circumstances of the coronavirus crisis showed the feasibility of running the EU’s grids on wind and solar power in the long term.

He said: “To achieve this level of renewables across Europe before Summer has even begun is incredible! Records are falling like dominos and the impact this is having on national energy systems is showing us what we need to do to integrate extremely high levels of wind and solar for the long term.

“During the huge difficulties caused by COVID-19, we have been presented with a unique opportunity to learn how we can tackle the next big challenge--climate change. We must capitalise on this rare glimpse into the future and use it to build back a cleaner and more flexible energy system.”

Lauren Smith
Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith has worked as a journalist and copywriter for most of the last decade, covering technology, energy, and consumer rights, in the US and UK.

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