A study by the two organisations shows that the amount of electricity generated by coal-fired power plants declined by 24 percent, while the share of renewables and natural gas grew.
Renewables accounted for 34.6 percent of the electricity mix, with wind and solar alone providing more power than hard coal and lignite. “Europe has become a test-bed for replacing coal with wind and solar power, and the fast results should give reassurance to other countries that they can rapidly phase out coal too,” said Sandbag analyst Dave Jones. According to the study’s German and British authors, a key factor in the remarkable shift away from coal was Europe’s emissions trading system, which finally succeeded in putting a significant price on carbon emissions last year.
ETS reform needed
However, political guidance will be needed for this effect to take hold in the long term, said Agora expert Matthias Buck: “In order for emissions trading to make a sustained contribution to climate action and create an incentive to invest in renewables, the EU needs to make an even bigger reduction in the number of certificates issued each year than currently planned. This should be a core aspect of the debate surrounding more ambitious 2030 climate targets for Europe.”
The new European Commission has announced plans to increase its carbon savings target from 40 to between 50 and 55 percent, while environmental organisations maintain that even greater ambition is needed.