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7 December 2022

Coal power has rebounded in Europe

Coal generation has risen by 30 per cent compared with 2020 as the war in Ukraine hits energy supplies.

By Nick Ferris

This year Europe has been hit by a perfect storm of energy supply problems. Russia squeezed gas supplies following its invasion of Ukraine, so that by September, the EU was paying the same amount for 75 per cent less gas.

Then Europe’s worst drought on record led to hydropower generation falling by around 20 per cent. And problems at French nuclear plants – which at one point meant that half of the country’s nuclear reactors had been taken offline – led to nuclear power generation falling by around 15 per cent.

Solar and wind capacity continue to be increased at breakneck speed, filling around 40 per cent of the EU’s electricity supply deficit this year. Where demand remained, however, coal – by far the dirtiest fossil fuel to burn – has been making up the gap. In the first 11 months of the year coal generation increased by 34 terawatt hours year-on-year, according to data from the green energy think tank Ember. End-of-year data will show coal generation up 30 per cent on the equivalent figure for 2020, according to New Statesman calculations.

The good news is that the rise in coal generation should be temporary. Indeed, coal generation fell year-on-year in both October and November, as wind speeds picked up, French nuclear reactors came back online and the continent enjoyed unseasonably warm weather.

[See also: China’s global coal machine won't be stopped so easily]

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