27 March 2024

Tracking Europe’s fossil gas plants reveals major rift

BERLIN, 27 MARCH 2024Despite commitments from 12 European countries to move their power systems away from fossil fuels in line with the UN Paris Climate Agreement by 2035 [1], analysis conducted by Beyond Fossil Fuels reveals a glaring chasm: 98 percent of the continent’s existing gas power generation capacity lacks a retirement plan, while plans for 72 GW of new gas puts Europe on course for a 27 percent increase in gas capacity over the next decade. [2]. Italy, the UK, and Germany are the top three European countries for both installed and planned gas capacity. All three signed a G7 communiqué in 2023 agreeing to ‘fully or predominantly’ decarbonise their power sectors by 2035 [3].

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), 2035 is the latest possible date for European countries to decarbonise their power systems and fulfil the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement [4]. Achieving this requires European nations to conclude their coal phase-outs by 2030, while concurrently transitioning away from gas to establish a fossil-free European power system based fully on renewable energy in just over a decade’s time.

“There is an emerging consensus that European nations should phase out fossil gas from their power systems by 2035, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at the gas industry’s expansionist agenda. Failure to synchronise industry plans with the imperative to combat climate change will only make the transition to renewables-based power unnecessarily costly and chaotic,” said Alexandru Mustață, Campaigner at Beyond Fossil Fuels.

Europe’s gas industry has come under heightened scrutiny in recent weeks. On 16 March, climate activists in Denmark, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK staged blockades at roads, ports and refineries in protest at government decisions to issue permits for additional North Sea oil and gas exploration [5]. These coordinated pan-European actions occurred just two days after the annual European Gas Conference (due to be held in Vienna between 26-28 March) was called off indefinitely. Organisers cited concerns over potential disruptions from protests planned by NGOs [6]. 

“Europe’s tone-deaf pursuit of gas expansion not only accelerates our journey towards climate breakdown, but increases our dependence on fossil fuel imports from hostile regimes. This undermines our security, exposes us to volatile power prices and toxic emissions, and heightens the risk of stranded assets. It is the duty of governments to send a clear message to the gas industry that its days are numbered, and mandate decisive action to ensure a smooth transition to a fully renewables-based power system by 2035,” added Mustață.

“The EU is in the middle of a structural shift to a power system based on renewables. New fossil gas infrastructure being built now risks being a massive waste of time and money, when governments and utilities should be focused instead on unlocking the benefits of cheaper wind and solar power,” said Beatrice Petrovich, Senior Energy and Climate Analyst at Ember. 

ENDS

Contacts:

Julia Pazos, Communications Officer, Beyond Fossil Fuels, [email protected], +1 310 994 9692

Alexandru Mustață, Campaigner, Beyond Fossil Fuels, a[email protected], + +40 741 926 908

Notes:

  1. Beyond Fossil Fuels’ Government 2035 Commitment Tracker assesses political commitments made by governments based on their alignment with the need to phase out fossil fuels from the European power sector and replace them with renewables by 2035: https://beyondfossilfuels.org/government-2035-commitment-tracker/
  2. The status of Europe’s gas plant fleet, as of 27 March 2024:
    Retired + announced to retire: 9, to go: 794, planned projects: 70. Find out more at Beyond Fossil Fuels’ new European Gas Power Plant Tracker: https://beyondfossilfuels.org/gas/
  3. Italy, the UK and Germany signed a G7 communiqué in 2023, agreeing to ‘fully or predominantly’ decarbonise their power sectors by 2035. However, the statement is not strong enough, nor is it clear enough on if and when fossil fuels will be fully phased out. 
  4. The IEA’s 1.5°C-compatible global energy scenario strongly recommends that advanced economies decarbonise their power sectors by 2035: https://www.iea.org/reports/net-zero-by-2050
  5. Climate activists across Europe blocked access to North Sea oil and gas infrastructure in protest at government decisions to issue new permits for exploration: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2024/mar/16/climate-activists-across-europe-block-access-to-north-sea-oil-infrastructure
  6. The European Gas Conference was postponed indefinitely, with organisers citing concerns over potential disruptions: https://www.krone.at/3293841

About:
Beyond Fossil Fuels is a collective civil society campaign committed to ensuring all of Europe’s electricity is generated from fossil-free, renewable energy by 2035. It expands and builds upon the Europe Beyond Coal campaign, and its goal of a coal-free Europe in power and heat by 2030 at the latest. www.beyondfossilfuels.org

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