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Renewables Provided 40% of Europe’s Electricity in Q1

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Renewables generated 40% of Europe’s electricity in the first three months of the year, as the first coronavirus shutdowns sent demand plunging and pushed cheap wind and solar power to the fore.

Generating 38TWh more electricity than they did in the same quarter last year, renewables notched their highest contribution to the European grid ever and nudged generation from fossil fuels down to just 33%. The winter before, coal and natural gas contributed 38% of the bloc’s power.

The record-breaking contribution from renewables meant that the carbon footprint of electricity generation in the member states fell by 20%, according to the latest quarterly report on European electricity markets from the European Commission.

The first quarter’s figures were moderately affected by the coronavirus lockdowns, with Italy enforcing measures across the country on 10 March, with Spain and France following the next week. But those early lockdowns, alongside moderate weather, were enough to dampen electricity consumption in Europe by 3% year-on-year. 

Expect even greater contributions from renewables when quarter two’s figures are released. According to data from the Wärtsilä Energy Transition Lab, The April to June period saw renewable generation records fall “like dominos.” That includes a day—24 May—when 55% of Europe’s electricity was derived from wind, solar and hydro installations—a percentage of generation that wasn’t expected for at least another decade. 

And some countries outperformed others in green generation. On 30 April, Spain sourced a record-shattering 74% of its electricity from renewables. Across May, Germany’s power was 58% renewable on average and the UK’s was 48%. That’s despite Ofgem having to pay wind farms to switch off to prevent a surplus of supply as demand slumped due to lockdown restrictions.

The UK grid hit its lowest carbon intensity ever on 17 April, as solar panels drank up rays through clean air and wind turbines churned to spring breezes.

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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