Warm weather and energy efficiency decreased electricity consumption in Europe - 2022 review
February 9, 2023
2022 REVIEW: In 2022, electricity consumption in Europe decreased by 4% compared to 2021 levels. The mild winter is one reason for this decrease. Additionally, the energy crisis resulting from the invasion of Ukraine impacted consumption due to both demand-side energy conservation efforts and forced consumption reductions from high prices. Renewable electricity generation from wind and solar kept increasing while severe droughts and maintenance of French nuclear reactors hardly impacted hydropower and nuclear power generation.
The countries included in the calculations performed for this review are Great Britain, Norway, Switzerland, and member countries of the European Union (except Malta).
The decrease in electricity consumption in Europe in 2022 is in part due to a very mild winter. Winter temperatures in 2022 were around 1°C above the average of the 1991-2020 reference period, ranking among the ten warmest winters according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service1. The energy crisis caused by the invasion of Ukraine also led countries to reduce their electricity consumption from September to December 2022.
Weather and energy crisis had major impacts on electricity production
The comparison of the electricity production per production mode between 2021 and 2022 highlights different events:
The severe droughts in multiple regions of Europe between January and August 20222 induced a massive decrease in hydropower production (more than 20GW on average in February).
Nuclear power generation was also much lower in 2022 compared to 2021. Many maintenances on French nuclear power reactors forced the country to decrease its nuclear power production. At the end of the summer 26 of the 56 French reactors were offline following the Covid-19 pandemic and the discovery of corrosion issues. As a result, France's nuclear production was well below the last 10 years average. The decrease in European nuclear production was also due to nuclear phase-out plans in some countries such as Germany and Belgium. These countries however decided to delay the complete phase out to mitigate the impacts of the energy crisis.
Coal production increased from February to August 2022 compared to 2021 levels. One of the most important causes is the energy crisis following the invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent high natural gas prices3. Several European countries restarted retired coal power plants to increase their energy security.
The gas power production remained overall stable despite many tensions in the natural gas market (energy crisis, very high prices). High market prices do not necessarily translate to high supply prices for power producers depending on their contracts. However, these tensions caused highs and lows compared to 2021 levels with an increase of almost 20GW on average in August and a decrease of the same magnitude in November. As highlighted by the IEA4 the gas demand massively dropped in Europe in 2022. This drop did not occur in the electricity sector but in the industrial sector as well as in the residential and commercial sectors.
Renewable electricity generation increased
Despite many tensions in the electricity market in Europe in 2022, renewable electricity generation kept increasing. This reflects the addition of solar and wind capacity across Europe during the last years. Additionally:
The seasonality in solar power production is very clear with a greater increase of solar power production in summer compared to 2021 levels.
Wind power production was overall much higher in 2022 compared to 2021. In Great Britain, wind power production accounted for a quarter of total electricity generation and low-carbon power sources produced more electricity than fossil fuels.
On the European level, wind power production was however lower in August 2022 compared to August 2021. This is a result of the numerous heat waves during summer 2022. During heatwaves, wind speeds are usually lower than the observed seasonal average, resulting in lower power generation. Meanwhile, electricity demand increases for cooling, which caused an increase in fossil-based power production, as illustrated in the above figure. In August 2022, gas power generation was 34% higher than in August 2021 when temperatures were near the seasonal average.
The year 2022 saw a decrease in electricity consumption in Europe, mainly due to the warm weather and efforts to reduce electricity consumption during the end of the year. Electricity generation from nuclear and hydro respectively suffered from maintenance on the French reactors fleet and severe droughts throughout Europe. These decreased production combined with tensions in the natural gas market caused an increase in coal-based generation. The end of the year however showed a positive trend with a decrease in fossil-based power generation.
Check out our map here and use the historical view to get the picture per balancing authority.