Renewable European energy largely spared from pandemic effects

During 2020, lower energy demand caused by lockdown measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic significantly affected certain fuel categories. Renewables stand out as an exception, continuing their growth especially in electricity generation.

Renewables surpass fossil fuels in electricity generation

In 2020, electricity generation from fossil fuels continued to decrease, recording its lowest point: from 1 226 156 Gigawatt-hour (GWh) in 1990, to a peak of 1 584 005 GWh in 2007, to 1 133 402 GWh in 2019 and 1 022 589 GWh in 2020 (9.8% decrease compared with 2019).

A similar trend was observed for electricity generation from nuclear, where 2020 provisional data shows the lowest point since 1990, at 683 183 GWh (6.3% lower than in 1990).

In the last decade there was a remarkable growth of electricity generation from renewable sources. According to the preliminary data for 2020, electricity generation from renewables overtook for the first time that from fossil fuels. The share in electricity generation from renewables increased over time, from 303 279 GWh in 1990 to 979 866 GWh in 2019. The 2020 provisional data shows a further increase to 1 052 582 GWh, which was 29 994 GWh more than the generation from fossil fuels.

Electricity generation from other sources and non-specified sources has only a very small share in the overall electricity generation mix, at around 5 200 GWh in the last decade. In 2020 it reached 4 442 GWh.

Inland consumption of fossil fuels decreased significantly

Preliminary 2020 data indicate a significant decrease in the EU’s inland consumption of fossil fuels. In general, fossil fuels in 2020, especially solid fossil fuels, are expected to be at a record low level since data are available (i.e. since 1990). This article presents a handful of findings from the more detailed Statistics Explained article on Energy balances – early estimates.

A massive fall in oil and petroleum products consumption and a moderate one for natural gas stand in vivid contrast to the previous years’ trend. The 2020 preliminary data shows that consumption of oil and petroleum products dropped by 12.9 % compared with 2019. Compared with 2005, the consumption of oil and petroleum products registered a fall of 23.1 % in 2020.

Natural gas inland consumption was less affected in 2020: the decrease compared with 2019 was of only 2.6 %. Nevertheless, there was a drop of 8.9 % since 2005.

Coal consumption (brown coal and hard coal) continued its strong decline, following the effects of the pandemic combined with those of coal exit policies. Compared with 2019, the 2020 provisional data shows significant falls of 20.0 %  or brown coal and 18.0 % for hard coal. From 2005 to 2020, hard coal consumption more than halved (-51.2%), while brown coal fell by 44.9 % over the same period.

For more information:

Eurostat Statistics Explained article on Energy balances – early estimates.

Eurostat database on energy.

‘Inland consumption’ refers to a calculated aggregate, represented as the sum of production, recovered and recycled products (when applicable), the trade balance (imports – exports) and stock changes, minus international marine bunkers.