Energy crisis: RES replaces more gas plants than lignite

The energy crisis has brought major upheavals regarding the evolution of the policies of transition to RES, indicating that the “greening” of the economy is an equation for difficult solvers.

The above is confirmed by the recent data of the financial think-tank Ember, where although natural gas is a “bridge fuel” for the energy transition, however in the two-year period 2019-2021 RES replaces this rather than polluting coal, as was the original plan.

Although it is an integral element in the big picture of the energy transition, however, it highlights that the “energy transition” hypothesis is accompanied by a multitude of variables and parameters that judge and will ultimately judge its success.

The “paradox” of the case depicted in a report by the Ember Institute concerns the role of renewable energy sources, which, in the midst of skyrocketing natural gas prices, ended up replacing natural gas more than coal plants that are considered more polluting in terms of electricity production.

Natural Gas

More specifically, as depicted in the chart below and concerns all 27 member-states of the European Union, in the period 2011-2019 the entry of RES into the electrical system was evolving “according to a plan”, i.e. they “entered” the system in place of carbon, when in the period 2019-2021, RES “enters” the system to replace natural gas.

According to Ember’s report, green electricity production in Europe continues to increase, with an average annual increase of 44 TWh over the past two years. More than half of the new green generation (52%) since 2019 replaced gas-fired power generation and 1/3 replaced nuclear and only 1/6 replaced a quantity of power generation with coal fuel.

However, in the period 2011 to 2019, more than 80% of new RES took the place of coal. In the last two years, coal-fired electricity generation has declined only in countries that have closed such plants as Spain (-42%) and Greece (-43%), but even this decline has been mainly offset by Poland’s growth (+7%).

Another interesting element in the report is the observation that the withdrawal of nuclear weapons slows down the decarbonisation of the power sector. Also under way is the debate on the ‘European Taxonomy’ and whether it will include nuclear and gas in the eligible investments.

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