A new study by E3G and Ember finds that wind and solar produced a quarter of EU electricity since the war began, with record growth from last year alone avoiding €11 billion in gas costs. However, the EU still spent an estimated €82 billion on fossil gas during this period to supply 20% of its electricity.
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Record growth in wind and solar avoided €11 billion in gas costs for EU
In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, wind and solar generated record amounts of electricity, relieving pressure on energy security and avoiding further costly gas imports.
Wind and solar generation
Boosted by increased capacity and favourable conditions, wind and solar generated a record 24% (345 TWh) of EU electricity from March to September, up from 21% in the same period last year. Nineteen EU countries saw record wind and solar generation in the March to September period, including France (14% share), Italy (20%), Poland (17%) and Spain (35%).
This record wind and solar generation helped to mitigate shortfalls elsewhere. Hit by closures and outages, nuclear saw a 19% reduction (-75 TWh) in March-September compared to the same span last year. And with severe drought across Europe, hydro generation was down 21% (-41 TWh).
Savings from renewables growth
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, EU wind and solar generation rose by a record 13% (39 TWh) compared to the same period last year. This increase alone avoided the use of 8 billion cubic metres of additional fossil gas. This is equivalent to €11 billion in avoided gas costs, based on the average EU benchmark TTF Day Ahead gas price for March to September 2022. In total, EU spent an estimated €82 billion on fossil gas since the start of the war as fossil gas prices continued to increase.
The study shows that past policy choices that increased the EU’s dependency on gas and held back the EU’s renewable and energy efficiency ambition are the main drivers of Europe’s record-high inflation now. Nevertheless, existing wind and solar capacity avoided considerable high-priced gas imports and thus prevented an even higher inflation and deeper crisis.
The European Commission’s RePowerEU ambition has the potential to reduce Europe’s exposure to costly gas imports significantly and quickly, strengthening its energy and price security. For that, it would need to be supported by EU Member States and the European Parliament and put into legislation, currently subject to negotiations.
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Notes of methodology
Monthly electricity generation is from Ember’s dataset (see methodology and download data), and the EU data is taken from ENTSO-E. The dates considered were 1 March to 30 September. It has been assumed that, due to the costs of producing electricity from gas power plants being the most expensive, any wind and solar power generated replaced gas in the electricity mix. A gas plant efficiency rate of 50% (gross calorific value/higher heating value) has been used. Average day ahead prices from March to September on the Dutch Title Transfer Facility (TTF) fossil gas prices have been used to calculate gas cost savings. A conversion factor of 1 bcm = 9.7 TWh has been applied.