Coal-generated elecricity falls by almost a third in the EU

14 August 2020 

The EU has reduced its coal-generated electricity usage by almost a third in the first half of 2020, new analysis reveals. 

A report released by independent think-tank Ember found that the bloc’s coal usage plummeted by 32 per cent in the first six months of 2020, and observed that the fuel’s usage fell by 8.3 per cent globally in the same time period. 

The global trend was attributed to primarily lower electricity demand due to COVID-19, but also recognised that increased wind and solar generation also played a significant role, which has risen by 14 per cent when compared to the first half of 2019. 

The US saw a 31 per cent reduction in coal use, while China’s use fell by only 2 per cent, meaning it’s share of global coal generation rose by 4 per cent so far this year when compared to last year. 

The study also noted that the global electricity transition needed to avert 1.5 degrees of warming above pre-industrial levels is “off-track”, as coal usage must be reduced 13 per cent every year up until 2030. 

Global levels would therefore have to fall by a further approximate 5 per cent this year to meet the target. 

“The fact that, during a global pandemic, coal generation has still only fallen by 8 per cent shows just how far off-track we still are,” Ember Senior Electricity Analyst Dave Jones said. 

“We have the solution, it’s working, it’s just not happening fast enough,” he added. 

The study also found that the EU is currently outpacing the global average for wind and solar electricity generation, as a little over a fifth of the bloc’s total electricity comes from these renewable sources. 

“Once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to rebuild the economy 

The analysis comes just a month after the Europe Beyond Coal campaign stressed that post-pandemic recovery presented a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to rebuild the bloc’s economy by overseeing a just and rapid transition from coal to renewable energy. 

If institutions meaningfully work towards financing a rapid shift from coal to renewable power, it would be, “the most important near-term measure to climate-proof the post-COVID-19 energy system,” according to the campaign. 

While highlighting the continued funding of coal projects by European capital investment, the authors did note there had been a steady decline in the practice. 

They observed that between January and June 2020, European financial institutions released nearly one new policy per week limiting financial ties to coal companies. 

However, they warned, “the frequency of new policies does not necessarily reflect their quality”. 

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