Varied Power Portfolio in Europe, Strong Trend towards Low-Carbon Power Production

Europe boasts a varied mix of power generation technologies, with nearly half of the generation fleet composed of carbon-neutral equipment. Since the start of the new millennium, the strongest growth rate in generating equipment and production has been evidenced by new renewable energy sources (RES), notably windpower, but European electricity still continues to be dominated by thermal power production from fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Download EURPROG 2009 (PDF - Size = 1 Mb)

Power Capacity

Power capacity, EU-27

The figures show EU-27 power generating capacity increasing by 2.5% between 2006 and 2007, from 775.5 GW to 794.9 GW, the largest proportional increase being in the RES sector, with more than 8.8 GW of new capacity - an increase of 13% on 2006 - coming on stream. This development was mainly in wind - both on-shore and off-shore - and to some extent in solar installations. As regards fossil-fuel fired plant, 2007 saw a modest 4% increase on 2006 but nonetheless some 18 GW came on stream. Nuclear power and hydropower capacity remained constant at 133 GW and 140 GW respectively.

Looking back over the 2000-2007 period, we observe an impressive growth in new RES capacity, with 55 GW of new capacity coming on stream, a more than 250% growth in only seven years. The statistics reveal a much more modest 13% growth in fossil fuel fired capacity, which nevertheless still forms the backbone of Europe's power generating equipment.

Shares of RES capacity, EU-27

Share of new renewable energy capacity (other than hydro) has both increased in absolute terms in Europe's power mix, and evolved significantly over the past years. Currently some 72% of the total new RES capacity of 77 GW is wind, some 16% is made up of biomass and waste -fired installations, 6% is solar, 4% biogas and the remaining 2% consists of geothermal and other technologies.

Since late 80s, the share of wind capacity has increased tremendously at the expense of other technologies. As renewable energy capacity continues to grow, the share of wind in percentage terms is likely to increase from today's levels.

Shares of RES capacity, EU-27

As regards the shares of fossil fuel fired power capacity, coal and lignite together form half of today's total of 442 GW of fossil fuel fired capacity in EU-27. Gas-fired capacity represents some 39%, with oil-fired power plants making up the rest. Over the past decades we can observe a tremendous increase in gas-fired power capacity, at the expense of both coal and oil-fired power. The growth of the share of gas-fired power capacity is likely to continue to the future.

Power Production

Power production, EU-27

Overall EU-27 power production increased only slightly between 2006-2007, from 3,194 to 3,213 TWh. Some 55%, i.e. 1779 TWh was provided by conventional thermal production, which increased slightly, while nuclear power production fell. Increases in RES-power were nearly all attributable to new renewable sources, as hydropower production remained constant. Looking further back to the year 2000, EU-27 power production increased by over 11%, from 2,878 to 3,213 TWh in 2007. While conventional thermal power has retained its share of the power generation mix, changes have occurred in the shares of non-CO2 emitting production. The share of nuclear has decreased somewhat, whereas new RES have increased their share from 2% to 6%. In absolute terms, RES power tripled over this period, from some 66 TWh to 198 TWh.

RES electricity in EU-27

In 2007, the production of electricity from new renewables (other than hydropower) was at some 198TWh in EU-27. While hydro production has remained relatively constant with minor fluctuations reflecting hydrological conditions, an enormous growth in new RES can be observed in the past three decades. Wind power has taken the largest share of this growth, growing from virtually nil in 1990 to some 100TWh of production in 2007. This trend is set to continue to the future. Other growing technologies will be biogas, solar and geothermal power.

Please note that the current data set reflects the time prior to the new EU RES Directive. We are likely to see significant readjustment of these figures towards 2020 and 2030, as the national RES targets and policies will be factored in (in next year's edition).

Shares of fossil fuel fired production, EU-27

As regards the shares of fossil fuel fired power production, coal and lignite occupy just over half of this, ie. some 930TWh in 2007. Further 42% of the production is by gas-fired units, and the remaining 6% by oil.

The evolution over the past decades is directly linked to the corresponding evolution of capacities. Gas-fired production has increased strongly, whereas coal and oil based production has decreased. The share of lignite-based production has remained relatively constant in percentage terms.

NOTE: It should be noted that our current statistics do not fully take into account the impact of the current financial crisis and we expect to see more impact in next year's report. Early statistics from 2008 suggest that Europe's power demand remained at 2007 levels. Indications from various EURELECTRIC member organisations also reveal that electricity demand will actually decrease in 2009 versus 2008. According to the recent IEA World Energy Outlook, this would be the first drop since World War II.

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