Nuclear power was the largest single contributor to Europe’s fuel mix in the first quarter of this year, according to a new study by electricity market analyst EnAppSys. The study showed that, although renewable energy made up more than four tenths of Europe’s fuel mix during the quarter, nuclear was the biggest single contributor with 26.2%, followed by hydro (18.3%) and gas (17.9%). However, the cold winter and the easing of COVID lockdown restrictions boosted demand for electricity, leading to higher-than-normal levels of fossil fuel generation.

Demand increased by around 10TWh compared with the same quarter in 2020, due mainly to a cold snap which saw temperatures around five degrees centigrade lower than average in February and March. This pushed overall generation levels up to 781TWh – an increase of 6% from the 739TWh in Q4 of 2020 and 2% higher than the 766TWh produced in Q1 last year. The colder-than-usual winter weather meant that Europe’s fossil fuel fleet produced 8% more than in Q1 2020, as more dispatchable generation was required to meet increased demand.

Jean-Paul Harreman, director of EnAppSys BV, said: “This winter has highlighted the continued importance of fossil fuels in periods of high demand. While the renewables fleet once again produced more than four tenths of the overall fuel mix, the cold winter weather meant that Europe had to rely on gas-fired plants and even the declining coal fleet to meet increased demand for electricity. The challenge is to become less reliant on fossil fuels as Europe moves towards a greener future, but the latest quarterly data shows that we’re not there yet.” 

He added: “Nuclear remains the largest single contributor to the fuel mix due to its high levels of installed capacity and fairly consistent operation. The second highest contributor varies depending on circumstance. This often used to be coal but the decommissioning of coal units across Europe has led to a reduction in its share over time. Now the amount of wind and rainfall, and so the amount of dispatchable thermal generation needed to meet demand, is the main factor in determining which fuel source takes second place.”

Russia’s Centrotech develops equipment for hydrogen production.

NPO Centrotech (part of Rosatom’s TVEL Fuel Company) in Novouralsk, Sverdlovsk Region, has completed the first stage of R&D to develop a line of equipment for hydrogen energy production.

The company's specialists have developed technology for the manufacture of an electrolysis cell linked to a battery with bench equipment for testing a prototype.

Centrotech has developed an original design and manufacturing technology for an electrolysis cell based on an anion-exchange membrane linked to an electrolysis battery. This will be used as a baseline for the design of a standard-size range of electrolysis plants with a hydrogen capacity of up to 40 normal cubic metres per hour (Nm3/h) for industrial consumers. The predicted value of the specific energy consumption of the electrolysis battery will be 4.0-4.2 kWh/Nm3, which is in line with the best similar equipment worldwide.

The technical and circuit solutions will be used in future to develop a prototype electrolysis plant with a capacity of 50 Nm3/h and a series with a capacity of up to 1000 Nm3/h. The use of foreign technologies and materials has been completely excluded.

In addition, prototypes of 50-litre cylinders were made and a unique mathematical model was developed for calculating various parameters of the cylinders. The results and solutions obtained will be scaled up in the development of technology for the manufacture of a range of cylinders with a volume of up to 450 litres.

“The result of our research work will be a line of new products in the field of hydrogen energy, said Centrotech General Director Ilya Kavelashvili. “In the near future, we plan to open an investment project to prepare for the production of electrolysers using the premises and equipment of the adjacent production site that previously operated at the Novouralsk site. We plan to start production in 2023-2025.”

Rosatom, along with Rusatom Overseas, plans to introduce domestic hydrogen solutions at a number of energy and transport projects, including internationally. In 2020, the Russian government approved an action plan for the development of hydrogen energy up to 2024. The objectives of the programme include increasing production and expanding the use of hydrogen as an environmentally friendly energy carrier, as well as becoming a world leaders in its production and export.