Fossil generation in EU at record low in first half of 2023 as demand falls

  • Brussels

  • 30 August 2023

New data from think tank Ember finds that across the EU, fossil fuel power was at a record low for the first half of the year. Between January and June, fossil fuels generated 410 TWh in the EU, making up the lowest ever share of the power mix at 33%. 

The fall was driven by a 4.6% (-61 TWh) drop in demand, amidst persistently high gas and power prices, reduced industrial output and a mix of emergency measures over winter to reduce consumption. This meant that demand fell to 1261 TWh, below even 2020’s pandemic low of 1271 TWh for the period and the lowest since at least 2008 for current Member States.

Fossil fuels fell 17% in the first half of this year, down 86 TWh compared with the same period in 2022. This was seen across Europe, with a fall of at least 20% in eleven countries, and more than 30% in five (Portugal, Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland). Fourteen EU countries saw their lowest total fossil generation on record for the first half of the year.

The decline in fossil fuels is a sign of the times,” said Ember analyst Matt Ewen. “Coal and gas are too expensive, too risky, and the EU is cutting them out. But we need to see clean power replacing fossil fuels faster. A massive push, especially on solar and wind, is urgently needed to underpin a resilient economy across Europe.”

Coal generation dropped by a staggering 23% year-on-year (-49 TWh) in the EU in the first half of the year, while gas decreased by 13% (-33 TWh). Other signs of coal’s decline across Europe were evident, as coal generated less than 10% of the EU’s electricity generation for the first time ever in May, with May and June marking the two lowest coal months on record.

Solar growth leads the way on EU energy transition

Growth in solar power continued in the first half of the year, with generation up 13% (+13 TWh) compared to the same period in 2022 and continued robust solar installations. Wind generation rose by 4.8% (+10 TWh) compared to the first six months of 2022. Wind rollout continues to face challenges, despite increased ambitions.

The EU’s acceleration in renewables in recent years was visible in new records across the EU. From January to June, 17 countries generated record shares of power from renewables, with Greece and Romania passing 50% for the first time and Denmark and Portugal both breaking 75%. The Netherlands also hit 50% wind and solar for the first time in July, while Germany came close with a record 49% share in the same month. 

Hydro and nuclear power show a mixed recovery so far in 2023, after sharp drops in generation levels last year created a shortfall in the EU’s power mix in 2022. Hydro generation increased by 11% (15 TWh) in the first half of 2023, while nuclear generation fell by 3.6% (-11 TWh) but is expected to recover as the year continues.