Sustainability/Analysis/

Sustain chart of the week: Europe’s energy usage

As the interest in alternative energy streams surges, we've tracked European countries' energy sources.

By Freya Pratty and Connor Bilboe

This chart first appeared in our sustainability-focused newsletter, Sustain. Sign up here to receive it in your inbox every Thursday.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has accelerated Europe’s plans to end its dependency on Russian oil and gas. 

That, combined with rising prices for fossil fuels and the looming climate crisis, means countries are under increasing scrutiny about where they’re getting their energy from. 

Using data from open source platform Electricity Map, we’ve mapped energy source use for countries across Europe, showing which rely on renewables, nuclear energy and fossil fuels. For some countries, there was no data.

It’s important to note that energy supply differs depending on the time and the day, and that the chart presented captures a snapshot of data from 18:00 CET on March 7 2022. We would expect that the broad breakdown for each country would not significantly change at other times, however. 

Norway is the clear leader when it comes to green energy, sourcing 93% of it from renewables and just 7% from fossil fuels. It doesn’t source any of its energy from nuclear power — similar to countries like Italy and Poland.

Other countries, like France, match Norway on its low carbon sources but, instead of relying on renewables rely on nuclear power. Nuclear power generators don’t produce any direct CO2 emissions.

France sources 61% of its energy from nuclear power, the highest percentage in Europe by far. President Macron recently announced plans to build more nuclear power plants, aiming to construct 14 new reactors by 2050. That comes as investor appetite for startups working on nuclear tech, particularly small reactors, also increases. 

Belgium and Sweden also use nuclear, sourcing 41% and 31% of their energy respectively, while nuclear has historically been far less popular in places like Germany, which now sources just a tiny fraction of its energy from nuclear power. 

The transition to low-carbon energy might be accelerating but the energy sector is still packing a carbon punch. Carbon emissions from energy sources rose 6% in 2021 to a record 3.6bn tonnes, analysis released by the International Energy Authority this week shows. 

And even countries which power themselves on low-carbon energy, are sometimes still exporters of fossil fuel power. 

Norway, for example, remains the world’s fifth largest oil exporter and third largest natural gas exporter, pumping 113bn cubic metres of gas via EU pipelines last year.

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