The Energy Transition in the Power Sector in Europe 2016

EU power emissions fell in 2016, mostly due to a switch from coal generation to gas generation.

Dave Jones

Head of Data Insights


24 January 2017 | < 1 min read

Executive summary

The energy transition is underway in Europe's power sector in 2016

Coal generation fell while gas increased, resulting in significantly lower power sector emissions across Europe.

New analysis from Sandbag and Agora Energiewende shows EU power emissions fell 4.5% in 2016, primarily through a huge switch from coal generation to gas generation.

Year-on-year, coal generation across Europe fell by 12%, whilst gas increased by 20%. Half of this switch happened in the UK, as many coal plants permanently closed and a higher carbon price took effect. Switches from coal to gas also happened in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Greece, in part from a temporary fall in gas price during 2016.

Renewables increased only slightly (from 29.2 % to 29.6 % of the electricity mix) due to poor conditions and slower solar and biomass growth. Massive price falls in offshore wind and solar give hope of robust future growth.

Electricity consumption is no longer structurally falling, suggesting energy efficiency measure need to be stepped up.

On the failing EU Emissions Trading System, structural oversupply has now passed the landmark of 3 billion tonnes of CO2.

The large switch from dirty coal to gas is welcome news. It helps the climate, and more importantly leads to cleaner air for Europe. Further switching away from coal is possible without building new gas pipelines and gas power plants. However, the ingredients to make this happen do not yet exist – few old coal plants have announced they are planning to close, and gas is still more expensive than coal because of a low carbon price.

Dave Jones Analyst, Sandbag