EU’s record growth in wind and solar avoids €11bn in gas costs during war

A new study by E3G and Ember finds that wind and solar produced a quarter of EU electricity since the war began, with record growth from last year alone avoiding €11 billion in gas costs. However, the EU still spent an estimated €82 billion on fossil gas during this period to supply 20% of its electricity.

“Wind and solar are already helping European citizens,” said Dr Chris Rosslowe, senior analyst at Ember. “But the future potential is even greater.”

Wind and solar generated a record 24% of EU electricity from March to September this year (345 terawatt hours), growing a record 39 TWh year-on-year, up from 21% of EU electricity in the same period last year. Nineteen EU countries achieved a wind and solar record, including France (14%), Italy (20%), Poland (17%) and Spain (35%). The record increase in wind and solar compared to last year avoided the need for eight billion cubic metres of additional fossil gas at a cost of €11 billion.

The study shows that past policy choices that increased the EU’s dependency on gas and held back the EU’s renewable and energy efficiency ambition are the main drivers of Europe’s record-high inflation now. Nevertheless, existing wind and solar capacity avoided considerable high-priced gas imports and thus prevented an even higher inflation and deeper crisis.

In their analysis, E3G and Ember conclude that the European Commission’s RePowerEU ambition has the potential to reduce Europe’s exposure to costly gas imports significantly and quickly, strengthening its energy and price security. For that, it would need to be supported by EU Member States and the European Parliament and put into legislation, currently subject to negotiations.

Artur Patuleia, Senior Associate focusing on energy system transitions at E3G: “With tight LNG markets sustaining high gas costs for the next years, governments need to support the clean energy ambition of RePowerEU, making it a core element of the energy price crisis response.”

The data for this report is based on Ember’s yearly and monthly electricity dataset. You can find the full methodology for underlying emissions, generation and capacity data here. Yearly and monthly electricity data is available for download in Ember’s data catalogue. Gas costs based on the average EU benchmark TTF Day Ahead gas price for March to September 2022.