EU emissions down, ‘merit’ of the energy crisis

CO2 emissions from energy use have decreased by 6% in the last three months compared to the same period in 2021. This was reported by the Research Center on Energy and Clean Air

EU CO2 emissions from energy use have decreased by 6% in the last three months compared to the same period in 2021, according to a new analysis by the Research Center on Energy and Clean Air (Crea). The analysis, based on a new tracking device capable of giving results almost in real time, shows how the surge in emissions recorded following the Coronavirus pandemic lasted 18 months and has now ended. Now, according to CRE, the energy crisis is already starting to bring down EU emissions.

As Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air explains, “The post-Covid rebound in the use and emissions of EU fossil fuels has come to an end in recent months, due to the growth in the supply of solar-driven clean energy and energy-saving measures accelerated by the fossil fuel supply crisis. At the same time, investments and policies in clean energy have increased significantly, which will lead to sustained and accelerated reduction of emissions in the coming years “.

What caused the drop in emissions? Growth of renewables, stabilization of hydroelectric and nuclear generation, reduction of demand and no growth of coal.

Growth of renewables. Renewable energies, heat pumps and electric vehicles are growing in EU markets. The growth of solar is remarkable: from May to June 2022, solar energy generated 12% of electricity, a record figure that translated into savings amounts to 29 billion of potential gas imports. This market reaction is underpinned by a number of new policies at the European level, such as the REPowerEu plan, and at the national level, such as the German wind law, aimed at accelerating the abandonment of fossil fuels.

Hydroelectric and nuclear production has stabilized. Both hydroelectric and nuclear power had underperformed during the summer, but in September-October, hydroelectric power generation normalized. The decline in nuclear power generation has also stopped.

Demand reduction. The high prices of fossil fuels have reduced the demand for electricity and gas, particularly in the industrial and domestic sectors, and are also affecting the demand for oil. The reduction in demand is achieved partly through energy saving and efficiency measures, and partly through the suspension of industrial production. However, in August 2022, although producers reduced energy production and EU industrial gas demand declined, industrial production in the Eurozone surged far beyond expectations.

No coal growth. Despite the fears, the new CRE analysis shows that the energy crisis, the war in Ukraine and the sanctions on Russia have not triggered policies aimed at favoring the consumption of coal in Europe. Even when overall heat generation increased to compensate for the shortage of hydroelectric and nuclear power, no shift from gas to coal was detected, which declined between September and October.

Speaking about the role of fossil fuels in the EU, Paweł Czyżak, an energy and climate data analyst at the green think tank Ember, had previously stated that “coal is not making a comeback in Europe, and neither is gas. Both. they are not able to compete with renewables, which are too cheaper “.

The incentive from high fossil fuel prices has led to spectacular growth in solar power and heat pump installations, as well as sales of electric vehicles. In the coming years, the EU’s major ambitions for clean energy and the policy programs implemented to support the reduction of gas use will bear fruit and further decrease coal and gas consumption and consequently emissions.

Russia’s attack on Ukraine has had the indirect consequence of accelerating the European Green Deal, anchoring the ecological transition to the EU security strategy. At the beginning of September, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen recalled the EU’s commitment to intensify and accelerate the spread of renewable energies, calling them “our energy insurance for the future”.