Renewable Energy Outpace Coal: What Can Be Done to Accelerate Positive Changes?

For the first time in history, in 2019, the EU countries generated more energy using renewable sources than coal. According to the recent report, it was the sharpest reduction in the European power sector’s carbon emission in three decades. A solar plant developer Sun Investment Group explains what could be done to increase renewable energy production within the region and expedite the transition.

February 24, 2020. 2019 was the first year when European Union member countries generated more energy using renewable sources than from coal production. Europe is getting closer to phasing out coal production and replacing it with sustainable sources. Currently, the EU generates around 30% of its energy from renewable sources, such as wind, solar, and biomass. For comparison, this number was only 12% in 2000. With new milestones, by 2030, the EU is planning to generate 50% of its energy using renewables sources.


Deividas Varabauskas, CEO and Managing Partner at Sun Investment Group, explains the reasons behind these changes, "There are many factors determining energy generation within the European Union. This sharp decrease in hard coal production happened due to increased taxation on CO2, and the growth of renewable sources. Of course, there's still a long way to go. Only five countries including Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, UK, and Italy were responsible for 79% of this decrease. If other member countries would follow, we could see much more prominent results."

In 2019, coal production dropped by 24%, which quicken the coal phasing out process. Gas filled half of the difference, solar and wind replaced the other half of the gap. As more Union's countries agree on reducing coal usage, soon the renewables will take the wheel of energy generation in the EU.

Slow Transition to Sustainable Energy Sources
Although 2019 was the first year since the First Industrial Revolution when clean energy sources outran coal, with time these changes should accelerate. With more member countries joining sustainable energy initiatives to reduce coal production and replace it with sustainable sources, the transition becomes faster and more feasible.

Additionally, a decrease in energy consumption in both western and eastern Europe had a major impact on the sharp decline in coal production. Not only consumers used less energy, but also industrial usage dropped.

Renewable energy is getting more affordable, which increases its availability for individual consumers. In 2019, Portugal broke the solar energy price record by selling for 14.76 euros per megawatt-hour (MWh), while the same year the lowest price was still at 16.7 euros MWh in India.

Deividas Varabauskas adds that governments play a significant role in promoting and developing renewable energy plans, "After many years of working in the renewable energy sector, we noticed that if a country seeks to switch to renewables, it's necessary to focus not only on power purchase agreements but also energy auctions. Yet many countries do the same mistake - they start with auctions and stop further development expecting that the market itself would do the rest. But auctions with a fixed price is a surefire way to stable renewables growth. It ensures that investors, buyers, and banks understand the market price and can assess risks."

Organizations in Europe are working on introducing alternative energy sources and educating consumers about sustainable energy benefits. The Sun Investment Group is a solar energy development and investment management company. Currently, they have plans on growing solar power usage in Poland, which is the biggest coal producer in the Union.

When asked about the countries they target, Mr. Varabauskas explained that it's crucial to focus not only on expansion, but also legal regulations and social attitudes towards renewables, "Our focus is on plants in regions whose political stability, legal framework, and existing energy and environmental policies guarantee a stable source of revenue in the long term." He also agrees that renewable usage can only grow if not only governments but also people join forces and embrace the transition.
With a significant rise in renewable energy production in the EU, we can only expect it to continue growing in the upcoming years. Changing consumer habits, declining mass consumption, and more sustainable energy availability open doors for European countries to meet their energy generation goals and more rapidly than ever phase-out coal production.

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ABOUT SUN INVESTMENT GROUP
Sun Investment Group (SIG) was founded in 2011 as an investment management and development company focused on solar energy assets within investment-grade markets. It has extensive experience in developing solar power projects across Central Europe and the Baltic region. SIG has a track record of 158 separate projects delivering a total of 131 MW capacity. 500+ MW of projects are currently under the advanced development phase. For more information, visit www.suninvestmentgroup.com


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