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Renewables are for the first time the dominant power source in Europe’s electric grid.

In a year that saw pandemic restrictions sap energy demand across the continent, the drop in supply came mostly from more expensive power from fossil fuels. That helped green sources take the biggest share of the European Union’s generation, a portion that will keep growing as the bloc moves to achieve its climate goals.

Renewables produced 38% of the EU’s electricity in 2020, up from 34% in 2019. That was just enough to surpass fossil-powered generation for the first time, which dropped to 37%, according to analysis of grid data by research organizations Ember and Agora Energiewende. The report adds to data that showed last year was the greenest ever for British power generation.

“At the start of a decade of global climate action, it is compelling that Europe has reached this green power tipping point,” said Dave Jones, an electricity analyst at Ember and the lead author of the report. “Rapid growth in wind and solar has forced coal into decline, but this is just the beginning.”

Wind and solar generation increased about 10% compared to 2019. Coal production fell 20%, to about half the level it was five years ago. Gas generation fell as well, about 4%, but was still 12% higher than the median gas generation of the last 10 years.

The shift away from coal has brought down the carbon intensity of Europe’s power by 29% in the last five years. That could accelerate if the EU is able to expand its decarbonization efforts and replace gas with renewable power.

[Will Mathis]

More: Renewables beat fossil fuels in EU for first time last year

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