November Carbon emissions in Europe lowest in 30 years | Popgen Tech
CREA, the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air, tracks carbon emissions in Europe. In its latest report, it says that November 2022 had the lowest values for the month in the EU in at least 30 years for total CO2 emissions, gas consumption, power sector CO2 emissions and power generation from fossil fuels.
Lauri Myllyvirta, a lead analyst and author of the report, said the data shows that accusations against the EU of backtracking on climate commitments are wrong. “There was a very widespread perception that Europe was going backwards on climate change, because of the Ukraine war,” he said The guardian. “There were frequent comments in this regard at Cop 27, who said Europe was going back to coal. We show this was not the case. There was a misreading of coal consumption.”
Some member states, including Germany and Poland, have sought a limited return to burning coal for power generation in the face of rising gas prices and supply constraints following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The UK has also put coal-fired power plants on standby.
Take THAT, Pooty Poot!
The power sector’s CO2 emissions and coal use fell for the third month in a row, says CREA. Total CO2 emissions have fallen since July, driven by dramatic reductions in fossil gas use in industry and buildings.
There were widespread expectations that the fossil fuel crisis would lead to an increase in the EU’s carbon emissions. It was based on a misunderstanding. The EU is increasing fossil fuel imports from around the world, but not because of an increase in consumption. Instead, EU utilities struggled to replace the lost supply from Russia after that country cut off gas exports to the EU. Additionally, weak nuclear and hydropower output has led to higher demand for coal and gas in early 2022.
Myllyvirta added that Europe’s energy transformation this year showed the underlying trend is strongly away from fossil fuels. “If anyone had said a year ago that Europe could almost eliminate dependence on Russian fossil fuels in 10 months, they would have been considered a complete lunatic,” he said. “But we came pretty close to doing it, and that’s pretty remarkable.
High prices = lower demand = lower carbon emissions
The reduction in emissions was caused by the impact of high prices on demand, CREA said, combined with increases in wind and solar production. Hydro power output recovered from the collapse it experienced over the summer, but French nuclear operator EdF failed to meet its targets for reactor restarts, leading to record low nuclear output in November.
In the power sector, both coal-fired and gas-fired power fell year-on-year in November. Coal gained share in thermal power generation, as the decline in gas-fired power generation was about four times greater than the decline in coal-fired power generation. Both wind and solar power output set new records for the month (although solar power is quite low in absolute terms in winter, of course).
As evidence that the reduction in carbon emissions cannot be attributed solely to milder than expected weather, CREA says the weather only contributed to a 10% reduction in gas demand outside the power sector, while actual demand fell by 26%. Within the power sector, milder temperatures could account for only 4% of the 12% drop in demand. Overall, about a third of the decline in gas and power demand was due to weather that was milder than in 2021.
In other words, temperature-controlled gas demand fell 20%, while temperature-controlled power demand fell 10% year-on-year in November. The high energy prices are driving reductions in demand, both through energy conservation measures such as lower indoor temperatures and outright reductions in activity. The high fossil fuel prices are also encouraging a dramatic acceleration in investments in clean energy and energy efficiency, which will have a large impact on emissions over time.
In Germany, the increase in wind and solar generation made up for the closure of nuclear plants, and the small reduction in power demand ensured that both coal and gas-fired generation fell year-on-year. The decline in France’s nuclear power output remained massive, but an equally massive reduction in demand, combined with increases in wind and solar power production, prevented an increase in fossil fuel generation.
In Spain, Belgium and Italy, increases in renewable power generation and reductions in demand have combined to push fossil fuels down. In the Czech Republic, Poland, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands, there was no increase in clean power generation, but fossil power generation fell regardless, due to reductions in demand.
December is colder
If November was milder than expected, temperatures are dropping in December all over Europe. Nevertheless, total emissions in the first half of the month remained well below the 2021 level, proving that the reduction in gas and electricity use is not primarily due to weather. Power sector carbon emissions started to increase again in December as the sector continues to be plagued by the poor performance of nuclear power and wind conditions were also very unfavorable, but reduced gas use outside the power sector saw emissions fall overall.
Myllyvirta concluded his remarks by The guardian by saying that governments must seek to protect their most vulnerable citizens from the dangerous consequences of the energy price increases that have forced such a sudden change. Europe can go further to wean itself off Russian energy, and fossil fuels in general, but it must be managed fairly. “It is unfortunate that so much of this reduction [in fossil fuel use] happened through high prices, which have huge social and economic impacts,” he said.
More than anything else, Putin’s inhumane brutality – deliberately targeting generating plants to leave civilians without heat in the depths of winter – helped prove that renewables are up to the task of powering the grid, even when temperatures drop. The corollary is that renewable energy is the best way for nations to create their own energy security and cut ties with lunatics and sociopaths who use access to fossil fuels to further their own nefarious political goals.
Considering all of the above, are there any reasons to continue using fossil fuel-fired thermal generation? Nothing we can think of.
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