CO2 emissions from electricity generation among Europe's 10 largest economies fell by 7% in 2020, Finnish energy and marine technology company Wartsila said April 13.
CO2 emissions fell by 36.7 million mt to 489.1 million mt as the effects of the coronavirus pandemic combined with an ongoing phase-out of coal for electricity generation in many European countries.
"The impact of COVID is like achieving a gold medal while spraining both ankles in the process," said Tony Meski, senior market development analyst at Wartsila Energy Business.
"We've achieved record breaking carbon reductions, but our global economy has been put under intense strain," he said in a statement.
Austria led the way with the largest percentage drop in emissions in 2020, down 28.8% from the previous year, reflecting the closure of the country's largest coal-fired power plant in April 2020.
Spain came second in relative terms with a 24.1% reduction year on year, but achieved the largest total drop by reducing emissions by 10.2 million mt to 32.1 million mt by closing seven of its 15 coal-fired power plants in June 2020, Wartsila said.
Netherlands came in third as generation fell 17.9%, with the country importing almost 40 TWh of electricity from Germany, the UK, Belgium and Norway, it said.
Italy came in fourth with a 7.8% cut in emissions linked to lower coal and gas-fired generation, while the UK came in fifth with a 7.6% drop linked to a 42.2% reduction in coal-fired generation, it said.
The pandemic combined with government-mandated coal phase-outs to accelerate the pace of the energy transition, with the share of renewables reaching levels not previously expected for another 10 years, Wartsila said.
Europe must now focus on turning a one-off impact on CO2 emissions into a structural long-term decline to stay on track for a low-carbon economy by mid-century, Wartsila said.
"One year since lockdowns began, we must now focus on a strategic, scientific and intelligent approach to cutting carbon emissions that enables us to achieve the Paris Agreement while actually benefitting our economy and improving our quality of life," said Meski.
"Energy demand will rebound, and emissions with it. We need to capture this moment and be ambitious with our investments in renewables and flexible technologies while they remain highly competitive," he said.
The latest figures were provided by Wartsila's Energy Transition Lab – an online data resource designed to help industry, policy-makers and the public understand the impact of COVID-19 on European electricity markets and analyze the implications for future energy systems.