EU power generation from coal & gas in May 2023 reaches lowest level in years

Key findings

  • CREA’s tracking of EU power generation by source suggests that the average monthly power production from coal and fossil gas reached the lowest levels in May 2023 compared to the prior 2 years.
  • May 2023 experienced a 35% lower power generation from coal compared to the same month in 2022 and 20% lower than May 2021.
  • May 2023 experienced a 23% lower power generation from fossil gas compared to the same month in 2022.
  • Lower monthly production of power generated through coal & fossil gas in May 2023 would have reduced carbon emissions associated by 15% compared to the same month last year.
  • Paired with lower gas & coal power generation in May 2023, solar energy generation was 12% higher than prior year.
  • Wind power generation in May 2023 was 15% higher than in May 2022 and stayed at the same level as in May 2021.
  • Total power generation was 5% lower in May 2023 compared to the same month in 2022 and 8% lower than in 2021. The fall in electricity demand cannot be accounted for by weather but represents real reductions in consumption, likely driven by the high prices.
  • Comparing May 2022 and May 2023, total electricity generation decreased by 5% from 194 TWh in 2022 to 184 TWh in 2023. The overall decline in electricity generation is likely due to the introduction of electricity efficiency measures, with savings experienced at the industrial and household level, as well as uncertainty about prices encouraging lower electricity consumption. 

Year-on-year (YOY) comparison for the month of May 2023 reveals that electricity generation from coal decreased by 35%, while generation from fossil gas decreased by 23%. At the same time, solar generation in May 2023 increased by 12% compared to the same month in 2022, and wind generation rose by 15%.

By 2023, the trend in EU countries is toward declining coal and fossil gas electricity generation. The May 2023 YOY comparison shows a 24% drop in coal and fossil gas electricity generation. In May 2022, coal and fossil gas generated 31% of the total electricity production; in 2023, this fell to 24% of total electricity production.

The decline in the use of coal for electricity generation is likely driven by the addition of generation from Renewable Energy Sources (RES), as well as a possible rising willingness of countries to revert to a coal phase-out policy. Meanwhile, the decrease in fossil gas use for electricity generation can be explained by the rise in renewables production capabilities and fear of possible gas supply disruptions in light of Russia’s war on Ukraine. 

May 2023 also marks a record high for electricity generation from solar and wind. Solar and wind generated 30% of the EU’s total electricity demand in May, compared to 25% in the same period last year. Particular mention of solar should be made, which generated 13% of the EU’s total demand in May. Last year it generated 11% оf total electricity demand. Yet, due to additional investments in solar generation capacity, this enabled  an increase in solar power generation even bigger than the peak solar generation month reached in July 2022. 

May 2023 should generally be noted for the fact that solar and wind generated more electricity (30% of total electricity generation) than coal and gas (24% of total generation); this was not the case for May 2022 in which coal and gas generated a greater share of the total electricity than solar and wind. It can be assumed that investments in RES are paying off and enabling lower reliance on coal and fossil gas for electricity generation.  Following this trend, the possible volatility of fossil gas prices and further electricity efficiency savings, European countries may refrain from using gas for electricity generation to the levels seen in previous years.

This analysis was prepared by Isaac Levi, Energy Analyst, CREA; and Petras Katinas, Energy Analyst, CREA
The data in this analysis can be accessed via our API here
The charts can be viewed on our live EU CO2 emission tracker.