9th November 2020
A rapid decarbonisation of electricity generation will be essential to limiting global warming to 1.5°C.
In this report, we use the National Energy & Climate Plans (NECPs) of every EU country to assess the planned progress in the power sector over the coming decade.
We compare each EU country on a wide range of power sector metrics and identify the seven countries that are the main barriers to reducing emissions from electricity generation in the EU.
The 2020s are a key decade for action on climate change. Clean electricity is essential for the transition to a sustainable economy. Although our analysis finds that many EU countries already have ambitious plans to decarbonise their electricity systems, we also identified seven key countries that are blocking overall progress in the EU. Unless they change course, reaching a 55% emissions reduction will be extremely challenging – let alone 60%.
By 2030, renewable electricity generation will double to deliver almost 60% of EU electricity demand.
The growth is driven by wind and solar which will supply at least 40% of the EU’s electricity needs in 2030.
Planned renewables deployment is extremely uneven.
In general, the planned deployment of renewable electricity in the 2020s is considerably lower in eastern Europe than in the rest of the EU. Furthermore, despite the massive reductions in the cost of wind and solar over the last decade, the NECPs identify a number of eastern European countries (Bulgaria, Czechia & Romania) where renewable electricity deployment is slowing down in the coming decade vs. the last.
By 2030, many eastern European countries will have lower shares of renewables in their electricity mixes than is being achieved by the leading countries today.
Across most of the countries in the world, either wind or solar is now the cheapest choice for electricity generation in terms of all-in costs. However, the NECPs indicate that many EU governments have failed to recognise the changing economics with wind and solar still playing a minor role in the electricity mix by 2030.
Planned deployment of wind and solar is insufficient to deliver a 55% reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions (vs. 1990) – let alone more ambitious targets.
The EU Commission has identified the need for about 1500TWh of electricity production from wind and solar by 2030 to deliver their recommended emissions reduction of 55% vs. 1990. Recent modelling by Climact also arrived at a similar figure. To deliver this increase, annual deployment of wind and solar needs to be raised by a third (~25TWh/y) vs. the current plans set out in the NECPs.
More ambitious climate targets, for example, a 65% reduction by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2040 would require a significantly more radical scale-up of wind and solar over the same time horizon.
Nuclear power is a source of zero carbon electricity, however the NECPs indicate that total electricity generated from nuclear power plants in the EU-27 is expected to fall by ~19% by 2030.
The largest fall is in Germany where all nuclear power plants must be phased out by the end of 2022 under national law. A few countries are targeting an increase in nuclear output in the next decade. The largest rises are in Finland and Hungary.
Fossil fuels are still expected to generate ~ 25% of EU electricity by 2030.
Overall, according to the figures set out in the NECPs, total electricity generation from fossil fuels is expected to fall ~ 30% by 2030 (vs. 2018) to ~ 870 TWh.
Poland and Belgium are huge outliers with fossil fuels responsible for well over half of electricity generation in 2030.
Coal power is only expected to halve this decade.
According to the NECPs, electricity generation from coal is expected to supply ~ 282TWh in 2030, a fall of just 53% vs. 2018.
Approximately 90% of the remaining electricity generation from coal is expected to be from three countries, Germany, Poland & Czechia. Furthermore, almost no reduction in coal generation is planned in Poland, Czechia, Bulgaria and Romania over the entirety of the next decade.
To meet the EU’s commitments under the Paris Agreement and limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C, all EU countries need to phase out coal by 2030.
Fossil gas power sees very little progress with projected generation in 2030 broadly unchanged vs. 2018.
Large increases in fossil gas generation are expected in Germany and Italy to 2025 partly to offset reducing coal generation, while Belgium sees the largest increase in electricity generation from fossil gas across the decade. The largest falls to 2030 are in the Netherlands and Spain, where wind and solar deployment is most ambitious.
By 2030, four countries (Germany, Poland, Italy & Czechia) will be responsible for ~ 70% of all the emissions from electricity generation in the EU.
This is up from just over 60% in 2018. Germany and Poland will account for over half of the EU total in 2030, according to climate plans.
By 2030, Poland, Czechia, Bulgaria and Germany will have the dirtiest electricity grids in the EU due to the high share of fossil fuels and in particular, coal.
As a result, the EU is not on track to deliver the EU Commission’s recommended 55% reduction in total emissions by 2030. To achieve this target, progress needs to be made in seven key countries and wind and solar deployment plans must increase by a third.
Next section: 7 Countries Blocking EU progress
7 countries blocking EU progress
The analysis revealed the seven countries that are blocking Europe’s electricity transition.
Together they will be responsible for 80% of the EU’s power sector emissions by 2030 due to their reliance on coal and fossil gas and insufficient deployment of zero-carbon electricity.
- Limited or no progress: Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia, Romania and Poland. Their NECPs indicate limited or no progress in the power sector over the entirety of the coming decade. Combined the countries account for 40% of 2030 power sector emissions.
- Slow progress: Germany and Italy. Their NECPs indicate progress in the power sector is slow over the next decade and this is a concern given the size of their economies and electricity demand. Combined the two countries account for 40% of 2030 power sector emissions.
With the EU expected to strengthen climate targets for 2030, national governments will need to revisit their plans for the electricity system and identify where further emissions savings can be made. Our analysis makes it clear that this task is especially urgent in Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia, Germany, Italy, Poland and Romania.
By 2030, Poland will have the dirtiest electricity grid in the EU and it will be the EU’s 2nd biggest power sector emitter, responsible for ~22% of the EU-27’s power sector emissions. It will be the EU’s top coal generator, responsible for over 40% of the EU’s remaining electricity generation from coal. Its deployment of wind and solar is significantly below the EU average.
By 2030, Czechia will have the 2nd dirtiest electricity grid in the EU, and it will be the EU’s 4th biggest power sector emitter. It will be one of only three countries with shares of coal – the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel – above a third of the electricity mix. Czechia plans the lowest deployment of renewable electricity in the EU.
By 2030, Bulgaria will have one of the dirtiest electricity grids in the EU. It will be one of only three countries with shares of coal – the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel – above a third of the electricity mix. Its reliance on fossil fuels for electricity barely changes between 2018 and 2030 with renewable electricity deployment amongst the lowest in the EU and slower than last decade. In 2030, the Bulgarian electricity mix will have one of the lowest shares of wind and solar in the EU.
Belgium is one of only two countries in the EU where emissions from the power sector are rising between 2018 and 2030. During this time period, it plans the largest increase in electricity generation from fossil gas in the EU, caused by the phase-out of nuclear power. Belgium’s share of renewable electricity by 2030 will be significantly below the EU average.
In 2030 Germany will have one of the dirtiest electricity grids in the EU and will still be the EU’s biggest power sector emitter, responsible for ~30% of the EU-27’s power sector emissions. It will be responsible for over a third of the EU’s remaining electricity generation from coal. Germany is only planning average levels of renewable electricity deployment in the coming decade – despite the large declines in nuclear power output and the high share of fossil fuels in the mix.
By 2030 Italy will be the 3rd biggest power sector emitter, responsible for ~10% of the EU-27’s power sector emissions. It will be one of the EU countries most reliant on fossil fuels for electricity. Between 2018 and 2025, Italy is planning the largest expansion of fossil gas use in the electricity sector in the EU, primarily driven by a switch from coal to fossil gas-fired electricity. Italy’s deployment of renewable electricity is below the EU-27 average.
In 2030, Romania will have one of the dirtiest electricity grids in the EU, due to a higher than average reliance on fossil fuels and a notable role for coal. Romania is planning one of the lowest deployment rates of renewable electricity in the EU over the coming decade. The planned deployment rate of renewable electricity is slower than last decade – despite huge cost reductions in wind and solar.
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Ember is an independent, not-for-profit climate & energy think tank. We receive funding from the European Climate Foundation and other philanthropic organisations.
This report is published under a Creative Commons ShareAlike Attribution Licence (CC BY-SA 4.0). You are actively encouraged to share and adapt the report, but you must credit the authors and title, and you must share any material you create under the same licence.
Report design by Wilf Lytton.
- Germany: Tagesspiegel, Frankfurter Rundschau, TrendsDerZukunft, Klima Reporter
- Poland: Polska Agencja Prasowa, Wysokie Napiecie, WNP.PL, Comparic, Biznes Alert, Bankier, MSN, Portal Samorzadowy, Cire, Salon24, Onet, Money
- Italy: La Repubblica, Agencia Nova, Rinnovabili, Green Report, Qual Energia,
- Belgium: Tijd, VRT, De Standaard
- Bulgaria: Climateka, Cash КЕШ, Dir.bg, News.bg, Energiya, OffNews, Money.bg, 3E News, Investor.bg
- Czechia: Denik, Czech Sight
- Romania: Capital
- France: La Usina Nouvelle
- Spain: Energías Renovables, El Periódico de la Energía
- Regional: Agence Europe, Elektrek, Business Green, Montel, reNEWS, EU Observer, Renewable Energy Magazine, ENDS Europe, Energy Live News, Balkan Green Energy News
NEW REPORT: Climate plans reveal 7 countries with the dirtiest electricity in 2030 will undermine EU climate goals 🇵🇱🇨🇿🇧🇬🇩🇪🇧🇪🇷🇴🇮🇹
— Ember (@EmberClimate) November 9, 2020