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Key electricity trends 2019

Annual trends from OECD countries

Natural gas continued to be the leading source of electricity in the OECD. This continued the picture seen in 2018 when gas overtook coal for the first time. In 2019 electricity produced from natural gas increased by 4.8% and was responsible for 29.0% of the total electricity production. Coal production was 13.4% lower than in 2018 and comprised 22.1% of the total electricity mix. This decrease in coal production was the largest ever recorded, both in absolute and relative terms. In 2019, non-combustible renewable production continued increasing and was 2,734.7 TWh, accounting for 25.9% of the total OECD electricity production, surpassing coal-fired generation for the first time, which was 2,327.6 TWh.1

Shares of electricity production by source in OECD countries, 2019

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In 2019, OECD net electricity production fell by 1.0% or 106.8 TWh compared to 2018, to 10,548.2 TWh due to continued lower coal production, down by 13.4% or 361.4 TWh in 2019 compared to 2018. Overall, fossil fuels dropped by 244.6 TWh while renewables production rose by 119.4 TWh from 2018 to 2019. The largest increase for renewable technologies was wind, up by 94.2 TWh or 12.8% followed by solar, up by 45.1 TWh or 14.1%. Other renewable sources2 increased marginally, including increases of 11.7 TWh for combustible renewables and 1.6 TWh for geothermal production. Hydro production however decreased by 37.9 TWh in 2019 compared to 2018. 

Electricity production variation by source in OECD countries, 2018 compared to 2019

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The largest decrease in coal-fired generation was in OECD Americas, where production was 1,105.2 TWh, 181.6 TWh lower in 2019. In OECD Europe, coal production fell by 21.7% to 537.3 TWh. Production from coal has decreased in OECD Europe every year since 2013, by 33.8 TWh a year on average. In 2019, this trend accelerated with coal production 148.5 TWh lower than in 2018. Similarly, the coal production decrease in OECD Americas accelerated in 2019, as production declined by 14.1% compared to an average 4.0% since 2013. Natural gas production increased in both regions, 5.9% higher in OECD Europe to 707.6 TWh and 7.8% in OECD Americas, to 1,831.0 TWh. In OECD Asia/Oceania, both coal and natural gas productions decreased in 2019, by 31.2 TWh and 31.5 TWh respectively, to reach the lowest levels of production since 2012. 

Renewable electricity generation excluding hydro and combustible renewables increased by 145.6 TWh in the OECD in 2019 compared to 2018, as a result of policy efforts to decarbonize the electricity mix. In OECD Europe, non-hydro renewables produced an additional 66.8 TWh, the largest increase in absolute value whilst OECD Asia Oceania non-hydro renewables rose by 16.5% in 2019 compared to 2018, the highest relative growth. 

Electricity production variation by aggregate in OECD countries, 2019

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In 2019, coal-fired generation continued decreasing in most of OECD countries, with a total decrease of 361.4 TWh down to 2,327.6 TWh, 13.4% lower compared to 2018. Electricity generated from natural gas in the OECD continued increasing in 2019, by 140.7 TWh to reach a record high of 3,061.0 TWh. Natural gas accounted for 29.0% of the total electricity mix in 2019 compared to 27.4% in 2018. In OECD Americas, natural gas production increased by 7.8%, to almost compensate the loss in coal production. In OECD Europe, natural gas production increased by 39.7 TWh, or 5.9% higher than in 2018. Electricity generated from other combustibles3 in the OECD fell by 4.3% (23.8 TWh) in 2019 to 525 TWh, comprising 5.0% of the total mix. 

The important decrease in OECD Europe highlights European efforts to phase out coal in the electricity mix. Many countries have established strategies to remove coal from their electricity mix by 2030. These strategies include coal-to-natural gas fuel switching. In 2019, natural gas prices were the lowest in a decade in OECD Europe. This combined with rising carbon prices supported the decrease in coal-fired generation in favor of natural gas production. In OECD Americas, coal-fired power plants face increased competition from natural gas and renewables, and strategies to convert existing coal-fired power plants are being implemented.

The largest reduction in coal production was in the United States, down by 182.5 TWh followed by Germany, Spain, Japan, and Poland. In January 2019, Germany announced that coal-fired generation will be phased out by 2038. In 2019, Germany’s coal electricity production dropped by 25.5% to the lowest level recorded in a decade, down to 167.1 TWh.

The same trend was observed in Spain, where coal production dropped by 24.8 TWh from 2018 to 2019 and accounted for only 4.8% of the total electricity mix compared to 14.2%. In the United Kingdom, coal production more than halved in 2019, dropping by 59.1% or 10.1 TWh to 7.0 TWh, In May 2019, UK production from coal stopped entirely for two weeks, which was the longest period without coal generation since the Industrial Revolution, as a consequence of higher carbon prices and a general decrease in demand.

The increase in natural gas production is largely due to the United States. Natural gas production rose by 113.5 TWh, to reach 37.0% of the total electricity mix. This represents 80.7% of the total increase in production in the OECD. In OECD Europe, with record low natural gas prices, production increased in 16 out of the 27 countries. Spain saw its production from natural gas jump by 26.2 TWh or 48.2% in 2019, to reach 30.5% of the electricity mix compared to 20.6% in 2018. The Netherlands and Germany followed with increases of 12.5 TWh and 10.3 TWh respectively in 2019. On a smaller scale, natural gas production more than doubled in the Slovak Republic, and was 2.4 TWh in 2019, surpassing coal production for the first time. In OECD Asia/Oceania, natural gas production decreased by 5.7% in 2019 compared to 2018, largely due to important decreases in Japan (28.2 TWh) and Korea (7.6 TWh).

Yearly coal and natural gas production in OECD countries, 2019

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Total OECD cumulative production of nuclear electricity in 2019 was 1,899.9 TWh, 29.9 TWh or 1.6% higher than in 2018. The increase in nuclear production in OECD Asia/Oceania totaled 92.7% of the total change from 2018 to 2019.

Nuclear production in Japan was 63.0 TWh, 15.8 TWh or 33.5% higher than in 2018 and production in Korea was 139.1 TWh, 11.9 TWh or 9.4% higher than in 2018. Nuclear production increased by 0.7% in OECD Americas and decreased by 0.5% in OECD Europe in 2019 compared to 2018. In Belgium, nuclear production was 41.6 TWh, 14.4 TWh or 53.0% higher than in 2018, after a major nuclear outage in 2018 due to maintenance and safety-related concerns. The increase in Belgium nuclear production was offset by the drop in France and the United Kingdom. In France, nuclear production was 13.7 TWh or 3.5% lower in 2019, which was a result of scheduled periodic safety reviews and operational outages. As a result of major nuclear outages over the first three quarters of 2019, production in the United Kingdom dropped to 51.0 TWh, or 13.6% lower than in 2018, to reach the lowest level of production in a decade. 

Year-on-year change in nuclear production in OECD countries, 2018 compared to 2019

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Renewable technologies accounted for 71.4% of the increase in net electricity production in 2019, according to a growing trend that has seen the renewable share of the total OECD electricity mix increase by 1.0 percentage point per year on average since 2009 to reach 28.8% in 2019.

Share of renewable electricity production in OECD countries, 2009-2019

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Total OECD production of hydroelectricity in 2019 was 1,445.7 TWh, 37.9 TWh or 2.6% lower than 2018. Hydro production decreased in 24 of the 35 OECD countries. OECD Americas recorded the biggest decrease in over five years, with production down by 30.4 TWh or 4.1% lower than in 2018. The hydro production in each country in this region decreased, especially in Mexico and Chile with respective decreases of 8.6 TWh and 3.2 TWh as a result of lasting droughts. In Chile, hydro production amounted for 23.3% of the total electricity production compared to 29.2% in 2018. Similarly, OECD Asia/Oceania, hydro production decreased as well, by 12.2 TWh or 8.4% compared to 2018. Production was lower in each country of this aggregate, the biggest decrease in value was in Japan, 7.6 TWh lower than in 2018 whereas the largest relative decrease was in Australia, 18.8% lower than in 2018, where hydro production was 5.8% of the total mix compared to 7.3% in 2018.

Hydroelectricity in OECD Europe increased slightly by 0.8% or 4.7 TWh in 2019, although on a more disaggregated scale, hydro production decreased in 16 of the 27 European countries. Hydro production in Turkey was 87.1 TWh, 47.4% or 28.0 TWh higher in 2019 than in 2018. Exceptional weather conditions were observed in 2019 in Turkey, with frequent rainfall and snowfall above the seasonal average which led to a rise in production. Hydro production in Norway, however, was 125.8 TWh in 2019, 9.8% or 13.7 TWh lower than in 2018, reaching its lowest level in 5 years, because of drier weather conditions in large parts of Scandinavia. 


Total OECD solar production was 365.1 TWh in 2019, 45.1 TWh or 14.1% higher than in 2018. The largest increase in solar production was in the region OECD Americas, with an additional 20.2 TWh in 2019, as a result of added capacity in the United States and in Mexico. Mexican solar production almost quadrupled in 2019 compared to 2018. Production was 12.3 TWh, 286.3% or 9.1 TWh higher than in 2018. In the United States, additional solar production was 9.5 TWh, 10.5% higher than in 2018, to reach 99.8 TWh in 2019. In OECD Asia/Oceania, solar production was up by 16.3% compared to 2018, due to continued growth in Australia, where production increased by 45.4% or 5.2 TWh to reach 16.6 TWh in 2019; additionally there was a 13.3% increase in Japan, where production was 74.1 TWh, up by 8.7 TWh to reach 7.6% of the total electricity mix. In OECD Europe, solar production increased by 11.0 TWh or 8.3% in 2019.

The top 5 contributing countries were the Netherlands, where solar production doubled with an additional 3.5 TWh followed by Spain, Turkey, France and Italy, who produced an additional 6.9 TWh between them. These results emphasize the fast growing European solar market, where total solar operating capacity increased by 14% in 2019 compared to 2018.

Solar production increased in all but 4 OECD countries. Due to lower than average solar irradiation and although new capacity was added in 2019, German solar production decreased by 1.3 TWh in 2019, contrasting with a fast growing trend over the last decade.  

Yearly solar production in OECD countries, 2009-2019

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Total OECD wind production continued following a fast growing trend in 2019, with an additional 94.2 TWh, to reach a production of 832.9 TWh. Wind power was the main driver of the renewables growth in 2019, with new capacity added continuously and favorable weather conditions. Wind production increased in all OECD Regions. In OECD Europe, wind production was 444.0 TWh, 13.9% or 54.3 TWh higher than in 2018. In OECD Americas, wind production was 354.8 TWh, 10.8% or 34.5 TWh higher and in OECD Asia/Oceania, production increased by 18.6% or 5.4 TWh to reach 34.1 TWh in 2019 compared to 2018.

As for solar power, the United States saw the largest increase in the OECD, where wind production was 27.5 TWh or 10.0% higher in 2019. Large increases in wind power production were also recorded in Germany, with an additional 13.2 TWh. For the second year in a row, wind production increased significantly in Norway (+42.8%), in Mexico (+34.5%), in France (+30.8%), in Belgium (+27.0%) and in Australia (+25.3%) illustrating the fast growing wind industry. On a global scale, wind production increased in 33 of the 35 OECD countries in 2019 compared to 2018, showing better wind conditions in 2019 than in 2018, which was affected by some extreme weather events, such as the summer heat wave affecting in Europe. 

Yearly wind production in OECD countries, 2009-2019

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Total OECD combustible renewables production in 2019 was 301.0 TWh, 4.0% or 11.7 TWh higher than in 2018. The main countries using these fuels for electricity generation in 2019 are the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom with productions of 59.8 TWh, 47.0 TWh, and 36.4 TWh respectively. Combustible renewables accounted for 2.9% of the total electricity mix in 2019, with its share varying widely between countries. Denmark and Finland produced respectively 20.0% and 17.6% of their electricity from renewable combustibles, the highest in the OECD. There were significant increases in generation from combustible renewables in 2019 the United Kingdom, 1.9 TWh higher than in 2018 and Sweden, 1.0 TWh higher than in 2018.

Geothermal production in the OECD increased by 3.2%, or 1.6 TWh, to reach 50.6 TWh in 2019. The three main contributors were New Zealand, Turkey and the United States, with productions of 7.3 TWh, 7.6 TWh and 15.9 TWh. Geothermal production in Turkey increased by 30.8% or 1.8 TWh in 2019, becoming the second highest geothermal electricity in the OECD.  


Total OECD electricity trade is representative of trade in OECD Europe and OECD Americas since there is no electricity trade in OECD Asia/Oceania. Exports slightly decreased this year in the Americas by 4.2 TWh and imports also decreased by 4.9 TWh. In OECD Europe, exported electricity in 2019 increased by 0.4% to 401.6 TWh and electricity imports went up 1.4% to 418.1 TWh. It should be noted that OECD countries within Europe and Mexico trade electricity with countries outside of the OECD, so imports of the OECD regions do not have to equal exports.

In 2019, 8 of the 27 OECD Europe countries were net electricity exporters compared to 11 in 2018 and in 2017. France and Germany remained the predominant electricity exporters in OECD Europe, France being the top electricity exporter in Europe for the 2nd year, with net exports of 57.5 TWh, compared to 32.9 TWh for Germany. Net exports fell by 32.5% or 15.8 TWh in Germany to compensate a sharp drop in coal production. Sweden, the Czech Republic and Switzerland are also significant electricity exporters, with net exports of respectively 25.2 TWh, 13.1 TWh and 5.5 TWh. Belgium was a net exporter for the first time in a decade, with net exports of 1.9 TWh in 2019.

Norway, on the other hand, was a net importer for the first time in 2019 having been a net exporter since 2010, due to significantly lower hydro production, with imports slightly higher than exports, by 44 GWh. Estonia was also a net importer for the first time in 2010 since 2010, with net imports of 2.2 TWh. Conventional thermal production dropped by 41.1% in Estonia during 2019 compared to 2018, as imported electricity became cheaper due to historically low natural gas prices. Portugal became a net importer of electricity in 2019 for the first time since 2015, with net imports of 3.4 TWh, to compensate the decrease in coal and hydro productions. Finland, the United Kingdom and Italy remained the biggest net importers of electricity, with net imports of respectively, 20.0 TWh, 21.2 TWh and 38.2 TWh.

 

Net trade 2018

Net trade 2019

Austria

-8946.8

-3128.58

Belgium

-17326

1855.39

Czech Republic

13907.1

13096.6

Denmark

-5224.34

-5791.76

Estonia

1896.5

-2159.4

Finland

-19936

-20039.5

France

62911.8

57544.8

Germany

48735.4

32886

Greece

-6518.88

-9943.61

Hungary

-14348

-12585.2

Ireland

27.73

-616.022

Italy

-43909

-38165.3

Latvia

-908.881

-1118.84

Lithuania

-9632.41

-9343.67

Luxembourg

-6161.34

-5878.8

The Netherlands

-7969.92

-949.997

Norway

10149

-44.261

Poland

-5694.5

-10623

Portugal

2656.97

-3399.9

Slovak Republic

-3681

-1699

Slovenia

502.166

399.403

Spain

-11102

-6862.21

Sweden

17229

25175.7

Switzerland

1587

5521.1

Turkey

607.594

576.803

United Kingdom

-19107

-21169.6

Net trade is exports minus imports. A positive value indicates that a country is a net exporter whereas a negative value indicates that a country is a net importer.

References
  1. All annual comparisons are based on monthly data in 2019 compared to monthly data for 2018. Israel is not included in this article. The data are the most recent data, and do contain some revisions from that presented in the Monthly Electricity Statistics report issued on 13 March 2020.

  2. Other renewables includes geothermal, tide, wave, ocean and other non-combustible sources. Also generation not specified elsewhere is included in this section.

  3. Other combustibles include oil, combustible renewables and non-renewable combustibles (apart from natural gas and coal).