Green energy plays bigger roles in European countries

A herd of sheep take a rest under solar panels of the Francisco Pizarro photovoltaic power plant in Caceres, Spain, on March 24, 2023. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

LISBON – European countries have been accelerating their green transition by promoting usage of renewable sources such as wind and solar. Recent data showed that the rates of green electricity hit high in a number of European countries in 2022.

According to the Brussels-based Solar Power Europe, the 27 European Union (EU) member states in 2022 saw 41.4 gigawatts (GW) of new solar photovoltaics (PV) capacity connected to their grids, a 47 percent increase compared to 2021.

In April, Portugal achieved a significant milestone, with 51 percent of its electricity coming from wind and solar power, according to data released by the UK-based energy think tank Ember on Thursday.

This is the first time Portugal surpassed the 50 percent mark in monthly electricity production from renewable sources. In 2022, Portugal installed 0.9 GW of solar PV, increasing its solar capacity by more than 50 percent to 2.5 GW, according to Ember.

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"Portugal is entering the next stage of its energy transition. Wind power and interconnection made it possible for Portugal to phase out coal in 2021; solar is now pushing gas off the grid," Ember data analyst Matt Ewen said.

In neighboring Spain, the combined wind and solar power accounted for 46 percent of the country's total electricity production, with solar generation reaching 4.2 terawatt-hours (TWh) in April.

The Senj Wind Farm in Croatia, built by China's Norinco International and inaugurated in December 2021 with a total installed capacity of 156 megawatts, is expected to produce about 530 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green electricity each year

In Finland, fossil-free electricity production hit a record high in 2022, covering 75 percent of the overall electricity consumption, according to figures released by Statistic Finland in April. The volume of wind power production increased 41 percent in 2022, reaching a record high of 11.6 TWh and covering 14.1 percent of the total electricity consumption.

Pekka Gronlund, deputy director general at the Finnish Ministry for Economic Affairs and Labor, told Xinhua that wind power is now expanding from land to coastal sea areas.

Denmark has been reaping the rewards of its pioneering commitment to green energy, with wind energy accounting for 48 percent of its national electricity system in 2022. Lise Holmegaard Larsen, project manager of renewable energy resources at the State of Green, a government-founded public-private organization, told Xinhua that Denmark's offshore wind capacity stood at a substantial 2.3 GW in 2022.

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As a global pioneer in the use of renewable energy sources, Austria now has more than 78 percent of its gross electricity consumption generated from renewable energy, according to the Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology.

Wind turbines are pictured in Brandenburg, Germany, Sept 15, 2022. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

The Austrian government aims to make the country's electricity supply completely renewable by 2030 and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040. To this end, the government plans to increase its green electricity by 27 TWh via installing one million PV systems by 2030.

Sweden, a historic hydropower producer, had 43 percent of its national electricity produced from water in 2021, while wind and solar energy accounted for 18 percent in total, according to data released in November 2022 by Statistics Sweden.

The Swedish government said Tuesday that it had approved the construction of two wind power projects, some 20 km off the western coast of Sweden, which are expected to produce around 6.5 TWh annually.

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"As Europe emerges from a crisis winter, strong growth of wind and solar are paying dividends. This spring, renewables are already lessening the impact of droughts and high electricity prices across the EU, as well as lowering emissions," said Nicolas Fulghum, energy and climate data analyst of Ember, expecting "many more records to come this summer."

In Germany, coal-fired power remained the most important electricity generator in 2022, according to the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis). However, wind power rose to be the second biggest contributor last year, with its share of electricity production up 9.4 percent year-on-year to 24.1 percent, followed by solar power with 10.6 percent.

A wind turbine blade is installed at the construction site of the Senj Wind Farm in Senj, Croatia, Sept 27, 2020. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Looking to the future, Germany is seeking to increase the country's solar capacity to at least 400 GW by 2040.

Carsten Koernig, chief executive officer of the German Solar Industry Association told Xinhua that these plans would "require a tripling of new solar power capacity installed annually over the next three years."

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Ivor Balen, a Croatian energy expert, told Xinhua that renewable energy currently accounts for about 29 percent of energy consumption in the country, with wind and solar as the fastest-growing sources of electricity.

According to the Croatian National Development Strategy, renewable energy will account for 36.4 percent of the total power consumption until 2030, and by 2050, this rate should reach 88 percent.

The Senj Wind Farm in Croatia, built by China's Norinco International and inaugurated in December 2021 with a total installed capacity of 156 megawatts, is expected to produce about 530 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green electricity each year.