After three years of stagnation, the EU’s CO2 emissions from electricity generation fell by 2.5% in 2018. Does this mark a new positive trend?
The emissions decline is largely due to particular events. There has been a move toward replacing coal-fired power plants with natural gas, which emits about half the CO2 per kWh. But gas is also a fossil fuel, so this is not a path to zero carbon emissions.
Energy consumption has declined due to a mild winter in 2018, high energy prices, the restarting of some nuclear reactors that were undergoing programmed verification, and a slight decline in the electro-intensive industries.
Germany and France together account for 60% of the CO2 reduction. But the decline is not due to energy and climate policies and is not likely to be sustainable.
Germany used to produce a quarter of its electricity from the atom, before deciding to renounce nuclear power. By now it has stopped half of its nuclear fleet. The phase-out is to be completed in 2022. The additional production from intermittent renewables will not be sufficient to make up the difference, so fossil fuels will have to fill the gap – with the corresponding increase in CO2 emissions.
German policy is pursuing two contradictory goals: fighting global warming and renouncing nuclear power. It is depriving itself of a carbon-free energy source, without any gain for the climate, while households are forced to pay high prices for electricity. And Germany will probably have to import more energy from its neighbors … some much of which is generated by nuclear power!
In France, CO2 emissions are higher in 2018 than in 2014, despite a significant decrease in 2018 (-3.2%). French electricity production is 90% carbon free. But France, like Germany, is chasing the contradictory goals of fighting global warming and substituting renewables for nuclear power.
More than half of the public funds officially dedicated to Climate are, in fact, devoted to reducing the share of nuclear in power generation. Meanwhile, there is little progress in decarbonating other sectors (transport, building, industry). Electrifying these sectors by increasing the supply of low-carbon electricity would certainly help.
The decrease in emissions in 2018 leaves the European Union at the same level as in 2014. Four years lost, at a very high cost.