Solar Surpasses Coal Energy in Europe

Europe has achieved a major milestone in the global transition from fossil fuels to clean energy: solar energy use has finally surpassed coal in the region. Energy generation by solar panels in the European Union exceeded generation from all the coal plants in the regional bloc in May.

Like the United States, the European Union has pledged to phase out dirty fossil fuels such as coal and oil in favor of cleaner alternatives, including solar and wind power. Major European economies such as France, Germany and the United Kingdom as well as several other countries in the region are looking to achieve net-zero emissions within the next few decades. Many of these countries have invested billions of dollars into making this dream a reality.

Based on energy data collected in May, these efforts seem to be paying off. However, the month of all-time solar power generation also revealed deficiencies in the solar power region. For instance, grid operators had a hard time handling power surges during extra sunny days, causing energy prices to turn negative on some days. BloombergNEF analyst Kesavarthiniy Savarimuthu says the biggest message learned over the month is that the system simply isn’t ready.

Solar energy technology is at its most efficient in hotter months with relatively lower demand, usually providing peak power during the day while the sun is still out. The stationary energy storage capabilities aren’t sufficient enough to store the excess energy generated during the day for use at night or to help with home heating during colder months.

While this hasn’t been a problem for the longest time, recent geopolitical events forced the European Union to turn to alternative energies such as solar much faster than it had anticipated. Russia, which is a major supplier of energy to the EU, cut natural gas supplies to the region in retaliation for sanctions placed against the Kremlin by certain European nations for invading Ukraine. The EU had to look for alternatives to Russia’s gas as the colder months approached and the energy sector barreled toward a crisis.

The Netherlands takes the cake in terms of solar adoption in the region. With more than 100 megawatts of solar panels for every 100,000 residents, the Netherlands has the highest solar capacity in the EU and the entire globe.

The Dutch government has invested in solar energy for years and provides rewards, such as offsetting energy bills for households that install solar panels. Several other countries in the EU are considering adopting the Netherlands’ system to boost energy generation from solar energy.

As EU countries and others around the world grow their reliance on renewable energy sources, companies such as Alliance Resource Partners L.P. (NASDAQ: ARLP) could find themselves needing to evolve and pivot in order to remain relevant as coal falls out of favor.

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