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Wind power outpaced gas plants in Europe for the first time in 2023 - Ember

Power-generating windmill turbines and electricity pylons are pictured during sunrise at a wind park in Avesnes-le-Sec

By Susanna Twidale

LONDON (Reuters) - Wind power production outpaced gas plants in Europe for the first time last year as fossil fuel electricity generation plummeted, cutting the region's carbon emissions, data from think-tank Ember showed.

Europe is ramping up its renewable electricity generation as part of efforts to wean the bloc off Russian fuels and to help meet its climate goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

Europe's fossil fuel power generation fell by a record 19% year-on-year in 2023, with gas-fired electricity production down 15% and coal electricity production down 26% the report by Ember showed.

At the same time wind power grew by 13% to account for 18% of Europe's overall electricity mix, the data showed.

"Europe is on a path to phasing out coal and we've now had four years in a row of falling gas generation which we believe will continue," Dave Jones, the global insights lead for climate think-tank Ember, said in an interview.

The drop in fossil fuel power and increase in renewables and nuclear generation led to a 19% drop in carbon emissions from the power sector, the report showed.

Gas plants provided almost 17% of Europe's electricity in 2023 while coal provided just over 12%, the data showed.

Nuclear was the largest single source of electricity last year, accounting for almost 23% the data showed while solar power provided 9%.

Overall renewables combined rose to a record 44% share of power in 2023.

The data showed electricity demand fell 3.4% in 2023 due to a drop in industrial consumption and amid mild weather but Jones said this is expected to rise this year as more products, such as heating and vehicles are powered by electricity.

"Renewables will need to keep pace with that demand increase in order to deliver the emissions cuts needed," Jones said.

(Reporting By Susanna Twidale; editing by David Evans)