EU solar and wind power growth displaced gas consumption worth half of Russian imports in August 2023

The EU’s progress in reaching low coal and gas consumption in power generation in 2023 as well as highs for solar and wind electricity generation has been remarkable. The expansion of renewable energy production has not only diversified the power generation mix but also reduced dependency on imported fossil fuels.

A new briefing from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air finds that in August 2023, the growth in solar and wind electricity generated across EU countries resulted in a displacement of 18 terawatt-hours (TWh) of fossil gas consumption, which is equivalent to 54% of the total fossil gas imports from Russia (33 TWh) via pipeline and LNG.

In August 2023, year-on-year combined coal and fossil gas power generation in the EU diminished by 31% (-22TWh). Specifically, coal power generation saw a decline of 39% (-14 TWh); in comparison, fossil gas generation decreased by 22% (-8 TWh).
Simultaneously, combined solar and wind power generation experienced a notable increase of 22% (+9 TWh). Monthly wind power generation surged by 29% (+6 TWh) compared to August 2022, while year-on-year solar generation saw a rise of
14% (+3 TWh) .

Although this is cause for celebration, much further investment in renewable energy sources (RES) is needed and the EU must implement further policies to speed up the clean energy transition as a way to reduce reliance on Russian fossil fuels that are financing Putin’s war on Ukraine.

The EU’s continued investments in renewable energy will lower carbon emissions, lead to cleaner air quality, improved health outcomes, improve energy stability and curtail Putin’s ability to finance the war.

Key findings

  • RES power generation saved natural gas equivalent to 54% of the EU’s imports of Russian gas in August 2023.
  • Year-on-year power generation from solar and wind increased 9 TWh in August. Year-on-year additional power generation from wind and solar contributed to the EU’s fossil gas savings of 18 TWh, equivalent to the combined annual fossil gas consumption of Latvia and Estonia in 2022.
  • In August 2023, there was a 3% year-on-year decrease in total power generation in the EU, equating to a reduction of 6 TWh. The reduction was not accounted for by weather.
  • Year-on-year, EU coal consumption witnessed a substantial decline in the power generation sector, dropping significantly by 39%, equivalent to a reduction of 14 TWh. Over the same time period, fossil gas used for power generation also experienced a decline of 22%, amounting to a reduction of 8 TWh.
  • A decrease in monthly power generation from coal and fossil gas in August 2023 led to a significant reduction in carbon emissions, estimated at lowering CO2 emissions from coal and gas by 45% compared to the same period last year.
  • Year-on-year, combined EU solar and wind power generation experienced a substantial 22% increase (9 TWh) in August. Solar generation saw a 14% rise (3 TWh), while wind generation witnessed a 29% monthly increase (6 TWh).
  • Demand for fossil gas outside the power sector decreased significantly in August 2023, registering a 27% decline when compared to the same period in 2021.

Petras Katinas, Energy Analyst, CREA