It was hydro and wind power which kept renewables the largest source of European electricity in the last quarter, as the continent emerged from the first wave of Covid-19, with solar output levels falling across the EU and in Great Britain.
English data analyst Enappsys has published third-quarter figures which showed solar generated 35.1 TWh of electricity in the July-to-September window, down from 47.6 TWh in the previous three months and down from the 40 TWh generated in the third quarter of last year.
That meant solar accounted for 5.4% of total generation as electricity demand recovered from the startling lows driven by the coronavirus in the second quarter. Solar had made up 7.8% of European generation in the previous quarter and 5.9% in the same period of last year.
The picture was mirrored in Britain, where shorter daylight hours saw the record 5 TWh of solar power generated in the second quarter fall to 3.9 TWh. Solar provided 4.2 TWh in July-to-September last year in Britain, according to Enappsys. The data indicate PV contributed 6% of the British power mix in the third quarter, down from 8.3% three months earlier and 6.3% a year earlier.
The picture was more encouraging for the wider renewables sector, in Europe if not in Britain. In the EU, renewables were the largest source of electricity – generating more power than fossil fuels and nuclear – for the sixth successive quarter, as wind production rose. With clean energy accounting for 40% of Europe's electricity during the quarter, hydro provided 16% and wind 15%.
In Britain in the last quarter, combined cycle gas turbines were the only generation source not to experience a quarterly fall in output. Gas supplied 40.5% of the national power mix with solar supplying 6% of the 39% accounted for by combined renewables. Wind made up 21.2% of generation during the quarter.
Enappsys reported European electricity demand levels returning to typical, pre-Covid, third-quarter levels although it sounded a warning note about another change of direction beginning in the final two weeks of last month, as Europe prepared to tackle what appears to be a second wave of the pandemic with fresh anti-contagion measures.
The 656 TWh of total electricity generation in Europe in the last quarter was up 7% from the Covid-hit 611 TWh reported in Q2 and down 3% from the 674 TWh generated in the third quarter of last year.
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