Growth in renewables saved the EU $11b in gas imports since the war

An increase in wind and solar power capacity saved the European Union billions of dollars that would otherwise have been spent on gas imports since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Clean power covered 24% of the EU’s energy needs between March and September this year, the highest ever for this six-month period, according to a study by think tanks E3G and Ember. The increase in wind and solar capacity over that period alone was equivalent to 8 billion cubic meters of avoided gas imports, or 11 billion euros ($10.75 billion) in avoided gas costs.

“There is a macroeconomic and a socioeconomic advantage to supporting higher renewable power targets,” said Artur Patuleia, the study’s co-author and a senior associate at E3G. “Renewables reduce the exposure to highly-priced fossil fuels, which according to international agencies, are here to stay.” 

Energy generation is responsible for over three quarters of planet-warming greenhouse gas emitted by the EU, so increasing the share of renewable power in its grids is an essential part of its effort to eliminate net carbon emissions by mid-century. The EU is currently aiming to generate 40% of its power from renewable sources by 2030. Under the REPowerEU strategy, the EU Commission and Parliament are pushing to lift that to 45%. Final approval now depends on each of the bloc’s members agreeing to the higher target. 

“Net zero is an instrument in line with Europe’s energy and price security ambitions,” Patuleia said. “If there was ever any doubt about that before the war, the way energy is being used by Russia to pressure Europe has made it more evident that renewable energy is a way for Europe to achieve energy security and reinforce its geopolitical position.” 

The total amount of installed wind and solar capacity in the bloc’s 27 countries amounted to the equivalent of 70 billion cubic meters of natural gas imports between March and September 2022, according to the report. That equals 99 billion euros ($96 billion) in avoided gas costs.

A total of 19 countries achieved record wind and solar generation, including Poland, which saw a 48.5% increase year on year. Spain generated 7.4 terawatt-hour more than the same period last year, the greatest absolute generation increase among EU countries. 

Renewable power also helped offset a 21% reduction in hydro electricity generation, and a 19% reduction in nuclear power capacity. Both were driven by low water levels in rivers and reservoirs as drought struck most of the Northern Hemisphere this summer. A study by scientists at World Weather Attribution found that climate change has made these droughts roughly 20 times more likely. – BLOOMBERG