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EU's CO2 emissions fall 12% in 2019 as wind and solar surpass coal

Renewable energy generation in Lithuania. Source: Ministry of Energy of the Republic of Lithuania.

February 5 (Renewables Now) - The European Union’s (EU) electricity sector has emitted 12% less carbon dioxide (CO2) in 2019 compared to a year earlier as generation from hard coal- and lignite-fired power plants dropped by 24% on the year.

Greenhouse gas emissions went down by 120 million tonnes, which is the sharpest decline since at least 1990, shows a new study by Agora Energiewende and climate think-tank Sandbag.

“Last year’s decline in EU greenhouse gas emissions is thanks largely to the CO2 emissions price, which continued to drive climate-damaging energy sources from the market,” said Matthias Buck, the head of European energy policy at Agora Energiewende. He noted, though, that maintaining the price of CO2 emissions at current levels is crucial for ensuring the continued mitigation of global warming. In 2019, that price rose to about EUR 25 (USD 27.5) per tonne of CO2.

Buck also urged the EU Emissions Trading System to further lower the number of yearly permits it issues for greenhouse gas emissions in the energy, industrial and intra-European aviation sectors.

Last year saw the share of renewables in EU-wide power generation climb to a record high of 34.6%, or 1.8 percentage points higher than in 2018. The electricity produced by wind and solar parks rose by 64 TWh to 569 TWh in 2019 and thus, for the first time, surpassed the amount of coal-fired electricity by 100 TWh. Wind farms generated 14% more electricity in 2019 compared to 2018, while solar power plants experienced a 7% increase in their output. On the other hand, hydropower production went down by more than 6% because of ongoing drought.

When it comes to annual capacity additions, the study mentions that 16.8 GW of wind parks were installed across Europe in 2019, which is about 5.1 GW more than the year before. In the solar photovoltaic (PV) sector, annual additions doubled to 16.7 GW from 8.2 GW.

Buck, however, warns that the annual growth of renewable energy capacity should be accelerated if the EU is to achieve its 2030 target of having almost one-third of its total energy coming from renewables.

(EUR 1.0 = USD 1.101)

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