France’s Power Emissions Tumbled in 2019 as Coal’s Share Slumped

France’s electricity sector cuts its carbon emissions by 6% last year as consumption fell while wind, solar and natural gas displaced coal-fired power generation.

The drop in domestic power consumption came as governments across Europe introduce policies to fight climate change by encouraging energy savings in a bid to curb pollution from burning fossil fuels. Record low gas prices, which have been pressured by mild winter temperatures, have also helped to squeeze coal’s share from power mixes across the continent, making gas more competitive than the dirtiest fossil fuel.

French power consumption fell by 0.5% last year, when excluding the impact of weather, to a 10-year low of 473 terawatt-hours as energy-efficiency measures and slower economic growth curbed demand, according to Reseau de Transport d’Electricite, the country’s grid operator.

Coal-fired power generation plummeted by 72% to 1.6 terawatt-hours last year. It represented just a fraction of total electricity output, which fell by 2% to 537.7 terawatt-hours as state-run Electricite de France SA’s atomic plants faced more outages and reduced rainfall curbed hydropower production.

Wind power accounted for 6.3% of electricity output last year, up from 5.1% in 2019 as developers added 1.36 gigawatts of production capacity to reach 16.5 gigawatts at the end of 2019. The addition was the lowest in four years.

Power generated from solar energy rose slightly last year, reaching 2.2% of total consumption. This was as capacity climbed by 890 megawatts over the year reaching 9.4 gigawatts.