Last year wind surpassed gas in terms of energy generation in the EU. So why might the clean energy transition be at risk?

New research from environmental think tank Ember has warned that grid connection delays could hamper the EU’s renewable progress in the long term, despite the bloc recording an unprecedented reduction in coal and gas power last year.
February 20, 2024

EU delivers a boost in renewable energy production

New data from think tank Ember has revealed that 2023 delivered a stellar year for renewable energy production within the EU. The new European Electricity Review report analysed full-year electricity generation and demand data for 2023 in all 27 EU countries. It found that fossil fuel generation declined by almost a fifth (19%), with coal reaching its lowest ever level at 333 terawatt-hours (TWh), comprising just 12% of the EU’s power for 2023.

Major milestone reached, as wind production surpasses gas for the first time

In a further positive step, for the first time wind energy surpassed gas, in terms of the amount of electricity generated within the EU last year. Together, wind and solar combined achieved their highest ever year-on-year increases in both generation and installed capacity, at 90 TWh and 73 GW. This means that in total they produced a record 27% of EU electricity in 2023 — well above a quarter of electricity generated in the EU, the largest proportion yet.

Wind produced more electricity in the EU than gas for the first time in 2023. Graph shows the share of EU electricity generation by source (%)

Source: Ember[i]

Faster deployment of clean energy needed to meet EU targets

Whilst the data shows strong progress on the EU switching to clean energy, Ember cautions that faster rollout will be needed for the EU to meet its targets. To do so, wind and solar growth needs to be accelerating much more rapidly, with the REPowerEU plan requiring 55% of power from wind and solar by 2030, nearly doubling from the 27% achieved last year. Ember notes that while solar capacity grew last year, adding 56 GW compared to 41 GW in 2022, this year-on-year growth rate was lower than that seen in 2021-2022. Further, while wind generation growth was strong in 2023 at 13%, it needs to increase by 15% every year until 2030 to meet REPowerEU targets.

“The energy crisis and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine did not lead to coal and gas resurgence — far from it,” said Ember’s Europe programme director, Sarah Brown. “Coal is nearing phase-out, and as wind and solar grow, gas will be next to enter terminal decline. However, it is not time to get complacent. The EU needs a laser focus on rapidly deploying wind, solar and flexibility to create a system free of fossil fuels’ risks”[ii]

Crucially, 2023 also saw a reduction in electricity demand with this declining by 3.4% (94 TWh) in 2023, compared to 2022. This marked a 6.4% (-186 TWh) decrease from 2021 levels and was primarily caused by a decline in industrial electricity consumption. This downward trend is not expected to continue to the same extent, meaning that should demand increase the EU could see pressure on critical system-wide enablers for renewables, such as grids, storage, and demand-side response mechanisms.

Grids themselves are already under pressure in relation to connections for renewable projects- with prolonged queues, network reinforcement taking five to ten years, and offshore wind farms waiting up to a decade for grid connections. Spain, Italy, and France collectively have nearly 200 gigawatts (GW) of projects awaiting grid connection, with a similar challenge at hand in Eastern Europe, particularly in Poland and Romania.


[i] European Electricity Review 2024 | Ember (

[ii] Ibid

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Lauren Foye
Head of Reports

Lauren has extensive experience as an analyst and market researcher in the digital technology and travel sectors. She has a background in researching and forecasting emerging technologies, with a particular passion for the Videogames and eSports industries. She joined the Critical Information Group as Head of Reports and Market Research at GRC World Forums, and leads the content and data research team at the Zero Carbon Academy. “What drew me to the academy is the opportunity to add content and commentary around sustainability across a wealth of industries and sectors.”

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