Global warming emissions from the power sector fell by 12% last year, led by a steep decline in coal power generation, which was replaced half by natural gas and half by renewables, according to fresh data published on Wednesday (5 February).
Hard coal and lignite-fired power generation fell in every EU country – and by 24% overall – according to fresh data on European power sector emissions, covering all EU member states, including the UK.
The drop was sharper in 2019 than in any year since at least 1990, and could be attributed chiefly to Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, the UK, and Italy, which together accounted for 80% of coal power decline, the two think tanks said.
“If you look at Western Europe, 70% of all coal plants will have been phased out in the next five years,” said Kristian Ruby, secretary-general of Eurelectric, a trade association. “By the end of the 2020s, coal will remain in place only in a minority of markets such as Germany, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Czechia and Slovenia,” Ruby told EURACTIV.
Half of coal power capacity was replaced by renewables, whose share rose to 34.6% of total electricity generation, a new record high. The other half was replaced by natural gas, a fossil fuel which spews about 50% less carbon than coal when burned in power plants.
2019 might also have marked a decisive turning point. For the first time, wind and solar power plants in the EU delivered more electricity than coal-fired power plants taken together, the report found.