Europe’s greenhouse emissions from energy continue to fall as countries pivot from coal to renewables. By 2030, 13 EU countries will be coal-free.
The move toward more sustainable forms of energy has seen emissions drop, according to a recent report from the watchdog group, the European Environment Agency. EU Member States and the UK reduced overall GHGs in 2018 by 2.1 percent. The agency attributes this to a nearly 50 million tonne reduction in coal burning.
Coal-Free By 2030
Two countries have committed to going coal-free this year so far. Austria shut down its last coal power plant in April. The Mellach-based power plant had generated more than 30 billion kWh of electricity and 20 billion kWh of district heating in the last 34 years.
Leonore Gewessler, Minister for Climate Protection, called the closure “historic.” “Austria is finally getting out of coal power supply and is taking another step towards phasing out fossil fuels,” she said. The nation aims to become carbon neutral by 2040.
One week later, Sweden closed its last coal power plant two years ahead of schedule. “Our goal is for all our production to come from renewable or recycled energy,” Exergi AB, which operated the Stockholm-based plant, said in a statement.
Belgium was the first to cut ties with coal in 2016. Three EU countries have now quit coal. According to the nonprofit organization Europe Beyond Coal, France, Slovakia, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Finland, Hungary, and Denmark are expected to end coal by 2030. According to NS Energy, Cyprus, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, and Switzerland “have never had any capacity to speak of.”
Rise of Renewables
The UK is going coal-free as well. The former EU nation hit a milestone last month, generating all of its power without coal for a record-breaking 60 consecutive days. The government announced that it would shut down all remaining coal plants by 2025.
Germany, which generates roughly half of the EU’s electricity from brown coal, plans to close its 84 remaining coal plants by 2038. The fossil fuel-based energy accounted for 40 percent of Germany’s electricity at the start of 2019.
Instead of coal, Germany and other nations are turning to renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind. In 2018, renewables accounted for 18.9 percent of the energy consumed in the EU with a 20 percent target by the end of 2020.