In 2017, the solar-wind-biomass triptych surpassed coal in European electricity generation. The growth of renewable energies is strong but hides deep disparities between countries. As well as insufficient efforts in energy efficiency fields. France succeeds in the feat of being both early and late, nuclear forces.

For the first time, Europe produced more electricity in 2017 from wind, sun and biomass than using coal. The crossing of this symbolic bar was announced in the annual report on European energy published on January 30 by two think tanks, the German Agora Energiewende and the British Sandbag.

Renewable energies reached for the first time 30% of electricity consumed by Europeans in 2017

Note that the study evokes the rise of “new” renewable energies only. If we add hydroelectricity, which produces about a tenth of European electricity, all renewable energies has just taken another step since they reached for the first time 30% of the electricity consumed by the Europeans in 2017.

German and British engines

If progress continues at this rate, the European Union should reach 50% of renewable energy in its total electricity production by 2030. That is the objective to keep the commitment of Brussels to bring the renewable energies to at least 27% of its total energy consumption.

There is so much for the good news, however, cover quite different realities in Europe. The great growth of renewable energies is primarily due to the efforts of a few countries. Germany and the United Kingdom together account for 56% of the rise in renewables over the last three years, the authors say. Germany now produces 30% of its electricity from solar, wind and biomass, the United Kingdom 28%. Germany is the second best pupil in Europe, far behind Denmark who smashes all scores, to 74%.

French ambivalences

Paradox of France, it is at the same time champion of abstinence in terms of coal, producing only 2% of its electricity from coal or lignite. Only Belgium is doing better in Europe. And Germany, despite its strong progress on the renewable front, uses this particularly polluting fossil resource for another 37% of its electricity production.

Nearly half of the nuclear electricity produced in Europe in 2017 was in France

Nuclear power, this old ambivalent asset, explains the French singularity: 72.3% of our electricity came from nuclear reactors in 2016, according to RTE. Nearly half of the nuclear electricity produced in Europe in 2017 was in France, the two think tanks report. This situation certainly allows us to dispense with coal and lignite, “the fossil fuel most emitting CO2,” the report underlines, while the European consumption of this lignite is struggling to decrease.