2023: A milestone year for renewable energy in Europe - Unveiling Ember's Electricity Review

8 February 2024

2023 was the year in which renewable energy took a major step forward while CO2 emissions, coal and gas reached record lows, according to the yearly European Electricity review published by Ember.

The eighth annual European Electricity Review by Ember analyses 2023 electricity generation and demand data in all EU-27 countries, offering insights into the region's transition from fossil fuels to clean energy. The European Union accelerated its departure from fossil fuels, witnessing a remarkable 19% decline in fossil fuels' contribution to the EU's electricity mix, falling below one-third for the first time. Coal generation dropped by a substantial 26%, reaching its lowest level ever, constituting only 12% of the EU electricity mix. Gas generation also experienced a 15% decline, resulting in the largest annual reduction since 1990, with gas now accounting for only 17% of total EU generation. It is worth noting that large reductions in coal and gas generation rarely happen simultaneously, since falls often occur due to switching from one fuel to another.

The EU power sector saw a sharp decrease of 19% in emissions, equivalent to -157 tonnes of carbon dioxide, surpassing the 13% annual drop recorded during the 2020 pandemic. Since the peak in power sector emissions in 2007, there has been a remarkable -46% decline. The 3.4% drop in electricity demand in 2023 played a crucial role in the overall reduction in emissions, contributing to 45% of the decline in fossil fuel generation. The rise in wind and solar generation contributed to 43%, accounting for 90 TWh of the fall in fossil fuel generation.


Annual Electricity Data, Ember

Ember’s annual Electricity Review also highlights that renewable energy surged to a 44% share in the EU electricity mix, surpassing the 40% mark for the first time. Solar and wind maintained their leading roles in this growth, contributing 27% to EU electricity production, up from 23% in 2022. This achievement marked a record in annual capacity additions, with combined wind and solar generation experiencing an unprecedented increase of 90 TWh, and installed capacity growing by 73 GW. Notably, solar exhibited robust growth, adding 56 GW of additional capacity in 2023, compared to 41 GW in 2022 (+37%).


© Annual Electricity Data, Ember

Looking ahead, a significant portion (21 GW) of the EU's coal fleet is expected to close in the coming years, with closures scheduled for 2024 and 2025. This includes the shutdown of 10 GW of coal power plants in Germany, primarily scheduled for April 2024. In 2025, several coal plants in Italy, Poland, and Greece will also cease operations, and Spain plans to close its remaining coal power plants in the same year. These closures align with the ongoing trend of the structural decline of coal in the EU, accompanied by a transition towards renewables. 


EU coal generation has halved since 2016 (-49.5%), decreasing by 327 TWh from 2016 to 2023, while wind and solar generation increased by 354 TWh during the same period. As coal phases out across the EU, the next major shift will be a transition away from gas.

“We can’t afford to be complacent about growth. 2023 brought a new solar record, but integrating solar into the system is still more of a challenge than it needs to be. Policymakers and system operators must work to ensure that the grid is ready to absorb solar generation, maximise the potential of grid-intelligent solar, and ultimately decarbonise the system.”

Walburga Hemetsberger

CEO of SolarPower Europe

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