Renewables Overtook Fossil Fuels in EU Electricity Generation in 2020

Europe just recorded its greenest electricity year ever, and more developments are on their way.
Derya Ozdemir

In a landmark moment that signals the start of a decade of climate action, a new report has shown that renewables surpassed fossil fuels in Europe's electricity mix for the first time in 2020 as numerous clean energy projects came online and coal shrank.

The annual report from Ember and Agora Energiewende found that renewables produced 38 percent of the European electricity mix in 2020, compared to 37 percent by fossil fuels.

Wind and solar power on a rise

The joint report has been tracking the European Union's power sector since 2015. The landmark moment has come following the rise of wind and solar power in the EU, with both sources nearly doubling numbers since 2015.

In 2020, one-fifth of the EU's electricity came from wind and solar power plants, while coal power declined 20 percent, making up only 13 percent of the electricity produced in Europe. The highest numbers for wind and solar power were reported in Denmark (61 percent), Ireland (35 percent), and Germany (33 percent).

The report analyzed that while COVID-19 restrictions led to a four percent drop in overall electricity demand in the EU last year, this affected fossil fuel producers more acutely. 

"Coal generation fell in almost every country, continuing coal’s collapse that was well in place before Covid-19," the report declared.

Renewables' lowest share in the electricity mix was in the Czech Republic with 12 percent in total. 

It is still not enough 

The report also underlined the fact that the transition from coal to clean energy is not enough to reach 55 percent greenhouse gas reductions by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050.

"Renewables will keep rising because we keep installing more and more. The jury’s out as to whether fossil fuels will rebound but if they do rebound it’s not expected to be by a lot," Dave Jones, Ember’s senior electricity analyst said.


According to the report's estimates, wind and solar generation growth must nearly triple to reach Europe’s 2030 Green Deal targets. While there is a tough road ahead, this is a step towards a greener future.

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