Wind and solar power have made up a record 24% of the European Union’s electricity mix since Russia began its war in Ukraine, a new report says, a boost that has helped the bloc battle inflation.
The increase in the volume of renewable energy saved the 27-country bloc €99 billion (97 billion dollars) from restricting gas imports between March and September, which is 11 billion dollars (10.8 billion dollars) compared to the same period from last year, according to. in a report published by climate think tanks E3G and Ember.
The increase in renewables comes as Europe tries to wean itself off Russian gas, as Moscow reduces, even cuts off, energy supplies to European countries to fuel the conflict. The war has forced the EU to address its high dependence on Russian gas, which in 2020 accounted for 41% of the EU’s fossil fuel imports.
Nineteen of the 27 EU member states have achieved record wind and solar production since March, the report found.
Poland had the largest percentage increase year-on-year with 48.5%, while Spain recorded the largest increase in generation with 7.4 terawatt hours (TWh). Spain’s renewable generation alone avoided 1.7 billion euros ($1.7 billion) in imported gas costs.
Think tanks warn, however, that there is still a long way to go in reaching the bloc’s renewables capabilities. Fossil gas made up about 20% of the EU’s electricity over the same period, at a cost of about €82 billion ($80.7 billion).
“Wind and solar are already helping Europeans,” Chris Rosslowe, senior analyst at Ember, said in a statement. “But the potential for the future is even greater.”
Wind and solar generated 345 TWh of electricity in the EU from March to September this year – a record year-on-year increase of 13%. The total renewable capacity would have been much higher, if electricity had not dropped by 21 percent due to the drought this summer, which scientists say was exacerbated by the human-caused climate crisis.
The main message of the report is simple: “More renewables, lower prices.”
However, energy prices in Europe are still high. Russia’s gas ban in Europe has resulted in the “highest inflation in Europe since World War II, overcoming the oil shock of the 1970s,” the report said. By September 2022, energy costs had increased by 40.8% over the previous year, accounting for 36% of the EU total.
Some EU countries have announced aid packages worth hundreds of billions of dollars to try to reduce these rising prices, mainly by subsidizing the use of fossil fuels for heating – but many businesses and households are still left with debts they cannot pay.
The report warns that governments will not be able to maintain such expensive systems “to pay for high fossil fuel prices for a long time.”
The EU has managed to fill its gas storage tanks to get through the winter, but questions have been raised about how the bloc will fill the gap in the next warming period. According to the report’s authors, this makes it “more important now to shift focus to measures beyond the winter of 2022/23.”
A ramp-up in renewables it followed the European Commission’s “RePowerEU” proposal in May, which increased the renewables target from 40% of the total energy mix by 2030 to 45%.