The Covid-19 pandemic drew the curtains over the coal-based generation. Countries such as Germany, Spain and the UK saw the most decline in electricity demand and marshalled other countries in the expansion of power generation from renewable sources. The year-on-year generation from wind and solar PV in the EU countries is expected to be 10%-15% higher in 2020, clearly highlighting the boost these sectors have had amid the pandemic.
Germany recorded the highest share of solar in the second week of April. The solar generation saw a year-on-year rise of more than 50% in March and 30% in April over the same period last year. During the first four months of the year, solar PV generation grew by approximately 16% compared to the same period last year, mainly due to the increase in the capacity build-up and extremely sunny weather due to low pollution and curtailed activities for business, travel and industries amid the Covid-19 lockdown. A similar trend was observed in Spain, the UK and other EU countries.
The share of solar PV as a percentage of the total generation in Germany, Spain and the UK was 27.4% in 2019 and is estimated to be more than 30% in 2020. Consequently, coal-based generation in these countries is expected to take a hit of more than 10% this year. Hence, developers are expected to prefer generation from renewables as they are cost-effective and environmentally friendly.
Germany’s Fraunhofer ISE and Spain’s Red Electrica De Espana saw a month-on-month drop of 36.9% and 35.7% for coal generation respectively in April. The UK also ran without coal-based generation for more than two months. The benefits of a pollution-free environment and high-yielding summer played a key role in the increased renewables’ generation. As economic activities are unlikely to start with a full swing immediately, developers in the EU countries would prefer generating from the cost-effective renewable energy sources in the near future.
Amid the various hurdles caused due to Covid-19 restrictions, the silver lining for the power sector is the performance of the renewables to bridge the gap that occurred due to the temporary shutdown of the power plants reliant on fuel supply and constant administration. Industry estimates that approximately 39% of carbon emissions have been cut from Europe’s electricity system. This has boosted the case for renewable systems that can operate smoothly and reliably.