Slowly but surely, European countries are starting to renouncing coal, one of the most polluting energy sources available.
Sweden just became the third European country to leave coal behind, following Belgium and Austria. The country decided to shut down its last remaining coal plant two years before the scheduled closure, signaling a strong intent to shift to renewable energy.
The coal plant is located in eastern Stockholm and owned by Stockholm Exergi, a company part-owned by the City of Stockholm. The decision was described by the company as a “milestone” and will help lower the greenhouse gas emissions of the country.
“This plant has provided the Stockholmers with heat and electricity for a long time — today we know that we must stop using all fossil fuels, therefore the coal needs to be phased out and we did so several years before the original plan,” Anders Egelrud, chief executive of Stockholm Exergi, said in a statement.
The company first aimed to close the plant in 2022, gradually reducing its output. But the deadline was met sooner, mainly thanks to a lower electricity demand due to a mild winter in Sweden — instead of waiting for another two years, better close it now and save the emissions.
Thanks to the move, Stockholm, Sweden’s capital, is a step closer to having its district heating produced only by renewable or recycled energy by 2030. Many European cities use district heating instead of localized boilers, as it increases efficiency and reduces pollution.
“Since Stockholm was almost totally fossil-dependent 30-40 years ago, we have made enormous changes and now we are taking the step away from carbon dependence and continuing the journey towards an energy system entirely based on renewable and recycled energy,” Egelrud added.
Sweden’s decision advances Europe’s movement away from coal. Belgium became the first EU country to phase out coal for heating and power in 2016. Austria followed this year, closing its last coal-fired plant – which powered a district heating network in the municipality of Mellach.
Seven more countries are expected to end coal by 2025: France (2022), Slovakia (2023), Portugal (2023), the UK (2024), Ireland (2025) and Italy (2025), according to Europe Beyond Coal. They are expected to be followed by Greece (2028), the Netherlands (2029), Finland (2029), Hungary (2030), and Denmark (2030).
There are ongoing discussions in the Czech Republic, Spain and North Macedonia about when to exit coal-fired electricity. Germany has said it will put its last coal plant offline by 2038, a commitment that still has to be firmed up in the country’s coal exit law.
“Against the backdrop of the serious health challenges we are currently facing, leaving coal behind in exchange for renewables is the right decision and will repay us in kind with improved health, climate protection and more resilient economies,” Kathrin Gutmann, campaign director for Europe Beyond Coal, told PV Magazine.
Leaving fossil fuels behind isn’t good just for the planet, it’s also an economically smart move, as the costs of renewables are dropping across the globe. A study by Carbon Tracker showed coal developers could end up losing up to $600 billion as renewable energy is now cheaper than coal energy in many countries.