Europe’s Energy Troubles Continue as Hydro And Nuclear Output are Declining

Authored by Irina Slav via

Last year, Europe was on the brink of an energy breakdown as Russian gas flows dried up and most of Europe doubled down on renewable energy. The renewable energy bet paid off, in a way. Solar and wind electricity generation in Europe hit a record in 2022. In fact, for the first time in history, wind and solar together produced more electricity than natural gas-fired power plants. There was just one problem with that. Lower hydro and nuclear output more than wiped out the significance of that recorded output.

Droughts were severe in Europe last year. They threatened major trade routes such as the Rhein in Germany and the Po in Italy. And they also caused severe declines in hydropower electricity output. For example, in Spain, hydropower output dropped by almost half because of the droughts. All this might repeat this year as well.

Meanwhile, nuclear wasn’t doing so swell, either. France suddenly found that years of underinvestment in maintenance would have consequences: emergency reactor shutdowns for repairs and maintenance. The problems cost EDF a massive annual loss of $19 billion as half of its reactors had to be shut down for maintenance. Most blamed the pandemic, but nuclear experts such as Mark Nelson saw the roots of the problem much further into the past when France decided to bet on renewables over nuclear.

Despite all these issues, in October, PV Magazine wrote a cheerful article about how wind and solar had compensated for the reduced output from hydro and nuclear power plants. Wind and solar, the article said, accounted for 24 per cent of Europe’s electricity generation between March and September, while at the same time, hydro output fell by 21 per cent and nuclear fell by 19 per cent.

That might have been the case in 2022, but this year things are different. Wind and solar are still producing electricity at a record rate, it appears, but declines in hydropower and nuclear output are so severe they are more than offsetting those record output rates, as reported in a recent column.

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