European Union

The gas crisis interrupts a rapid coal exit

The European Union (EU) is responsible for 6% of global power sector emissions, down from 14% two decades ago. The region is leading the way on wind and solar, which generated a fifth of EU electricity in 2021 – double the global average. Fossil fuels still accounted for 37% of generation. 

The EU reached an important milestone in 2020, generating more electricity from renewables than fossil fuels for the first time. Coal generation has fallen by a third in the last five years, mostly replaced by wind and solar, but the ongoing gas price crisis has interrupted this process. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the EU Commission and national governments are developing plans to rapidly reduce the EU’s reliance on gas imports, accelerated deployment of clean electricity will be essential. Fossil gas accounted for 18% of EU electricity generation in 2021. 

To limit global temperature rises to 1.5C, the EU must phase-out coal by 2030 and fully decarbonise electricity by 2035. A number of countries such as France and Sweden already generate over 90% of their electricity from zero emissions sources, while others such as Spain and the Netherlands plan a major transformation this decade, and have seen extraordinary growth in wind and solar through the pandemic. However, overall, planned wind and solar deployment is still insufficient to meet the block’s own climate targets – let alone reach 100% clean power by 2035.

 

Last updated: March 2022

Progress towards clean power targets
European Union
2000–2040

20 largest electricity generating countries in
European Union