Fossil fuels made a comeback in 2021 as the main source of energy in electricity generation in the European Union (EU) after being overtaken by renewables in 2020, according to preliminary data from Eurostat.
Electricity production from certain types of coal has increased significantly in 2021, with the volume of electricity produced from those in the “other bituminous coal” category having jumped by 25.6% and from lignite by 16 .2%.
Among renewable sources in power generation, solar has seen the strongest growth
On the renewable energy side, the biggest increases were seen in electricity generated from solar energy, 13%, followed by solid biofuels 9.6%, while unfavorable weather conditions reduced the production of hydropower and wind power, by 1.2% and 3%, respectively.
Nuclear power plants produced 7% more electricity compared to 2020
The EU statistical office also pointed out that production from nuclear power plants increased by 7% last year compared to 2020.
As economic activity rebounded from the COVID-19 shutdowns, 2021 saw a 4.2% increase in total electricity supply in the EU, Eurostat said. By individual fuel, the main contributors to overall electricity generation in 2021 were nuclear power, with 731 terawatt hours (TWh), natural gas (550 TWh), wind (386 TWh), hydropower (370 TWh), lignite (227 TWh), other bituminous coals (193 TWh) and solar (163 TWh).
Overall fossil fuel consumption has also increased, but has not rebounded to pre-pandemic levels
Preliminary data on the EU’s internal energy consumption – the overall energy supply for all activities within its territory – indicates an increase in fossil fuel consumption, reflecting the EU’s post-pandemic economic recovery. However, it remained below 2019 levels.
Consumption of petroleum products increased by 5% in 2021, but its decline in 2020 was much steeper, at 12.4%. Compared to 2019, data for 2021 shows consumption of petroleum products down 8.1%, according to Eurostat.
Natural gas consumption in 2021 was the highest in ten years, reaching 15.8 million terajoules (TJ), an increase of 3.9% compared to 2020. Eurostat also noted that only 1.7 million TJ of natural gas came from domestic production, while the rest was imported.
Bulgaria recorded the highest increase in CO2 emissions in the EU in 2021
Also in 2021, the lifting of COVID-19 related lockdowns in the EU led to a 6.3% increase in CO2 emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels (mainly petroleum and petroleum products, natural gas, coal and peat), according to Eurostat.
Emissions increased compared to 2020 in most EU countries, with the largest increases seen in Bulgaria, 18%, Estonia, 13.1%, Slovakia, 11.4% and Italy, 10 .6%. The only two countries with an estimated decrease in CO2 emissions are Portugal, with a 5.5% decrease, and Finland, with 1.5%.