Growth of wind and solar has saved the EU €12 billion since Russia invaded Ukraine

Growth of wind and solar power has saved the European Union (EU) €12 billion in avoided gas costs since Russia invaded Ukraine, according to a new analysis from energy think tank Ember.

This Friday, February 24, marks a year since Russia invaded Ukraine. And in that rough period – from March 1, 2022, to January 31, 2023 – EU wind and solar grew by 50 TWh (+10%) since the start of the war, generating 23% of EU electricity in that period (546 TWh).

The annual increase in wind and solar alone reduced the amount of gas required for electricity generation by 90 TWh (9 bcm) and avoided gas costs of €12 billion ($12.78 billion).

Ember’s European Electricity Review 2023 showed a triple crisis facing the EU’s power sector in 2022: As Europe moved to cut ties with its biggest supplier of fossil gas, it faced the lowest levels of hydro and nuclear in at least 20 years. A drought across Europe led to the lowest level of hydro generation since at least 2000, and there were widespread unexpected French nuclear outages just as German nuclear units were closing.

However, wind and solar growth, alongside a fall in demand, helped the EU weather the crisis and prevented a threatened return to coal power.

Sarah Brown, senior analyst at Ember, said:

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shocked Europe into action. Suddenly, gaping vulnerabilities due to fossil fuel dependence became a stark reality. The last year has been a scramble to address these risks through an accelerated transition to a cleaner, more secure power system. At the year marker of Russia’s devastating war in Ukraine, it remains critical that the EU rapidly expands solar and wind to attain permanent energy independence.

The report’s executive summary states that “2023 will be quite the opposite”: 

Hydro generation will rebound, French nuclear units will return, wind and solar deployment will accelerate, and electricity demand will likely continue to fall over the coming months. In 2023, Europe is set to witness a huge fall in fossil fuels – of coal power, yes, but especially gas power.

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