Wind energy overtakes gas in Europe

A fossil fuel-free Europe?

Wind turbines. Credit: chaiviewfinder/

Can Europe turn its back on fossil fuels for good? The recent surge in renewable energy across the European Union suggests it might just be possible.

In 2023, a ground-breaking report by the energy think tank Ember revealed a significant shift in the EU’s energy landscape.

Fossil fuel generation plummeted, marking a decisive move towards renewables, with wind and solar energy leading the charge.

This change was particularly notable in Spain, which set a precedent by generating more than half of its electricity from renewable sources.

A historic shift in energy production

The decline in coal and gas usage in 2023 was unprecedented. Coal usage dropped by 26 per cent to a record low, contributing just 12 per cent to the EU’s electricity generation.

Gas saw its largest annual decrease since at least 1990, falling by 15 per cent. This reduction in fossil fuel use led to a 19 per cent decrease in emissions from the electricity sector.

‘Sarah Brown, European program director at Ember, emphasised, ‘Coal is on its way out and, as wind and solar grow, gas will be next to go into terminal decline.

‘However, this is not the time to rest on its laurels. The EU needs to focus on rapid deployment of wind, solar and flexibility to create a system free of the risks of fossil fuels.’

Spain’s renewable energy milestone

Spain stood out in 2023, with renewable energy sources almost reaching 51 per cent of its energy mix. This significant achievement underlines Spain’s commitment to green energy, with the clean energy sector now representing over 60 per cent of the total national electrical system.

Photovoltaic solar energy, in particular, saw impressive growth, with over 5,000 new MW installed.

The road ahead for renewables

Despite the overall decrease in electricity demand by 3.4 per cent in 2023, the future looks electric. The transition to electrification, driven by among other things, heat pumps, and electric vehicles is expected to increase electricity demand. Renewables will need to keep up with this growing demand to meet emission reduction targets.

Dave Jones, Head of Analysis at Ember, stated, ‘The EU will enter a new era of growing demand for electricity. Renewable energies will need to keep pace with this increase in demand to achieve the emissions cuts necessary for a safe climate.’

The European Commission’s recommendation for a 90 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 further underscores the urgency of expanding renewable energy sources.

Spain’s achievements highlight the potential for significant progress in the renewable sector, setting an example for the rest of Europe to follow.

As the continent moves towards a greener future, the focus on accelerating wind and solar energy deployment, alongside regulatory stability to attract investment, will be crucial.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.