For the year, coal-fired generation rose by 31.5 percent from 108.6 terawatt hours (TWh) in 2011 to 142.8 TWh, its highest level for six years, as reported by Industrial Info Resources. Gas-fired generation fell 32.1 percent from 146.8 TWh to 99.7 TWh, its lowest level since 1996, according to the latest energy statistics from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). The report blamed high gas prices, which led to many gas-fired power stations being run at "minimal or zero levels."

"Gas's share of generation fell from 39.9 percent to 27.5 percent, due to high gas prices," DECC stated. "It was gas's lowest share since 1996. Coal's share of generation increased from 29.5 percent to 39.3 percent, its highest share since 1996. Electricity generated in 2012 fell by 1.3 percent from 367.8 TWh in 2011 to 363.2 TWh."

Electricity from renewable sources jumped by 20 percent in 2012, accounting for 11.3 percent of the total electricity demand compared to 9.4 percent in 2011. This represented an increase from 34.4 TWh to 41.1 TWh. Nuclear generation rose 2.1 percent from 69.0 TWh to 70.4 TWh, the highest level for six years. This resulted in its generation share increasing from 15.2 percent to 17.2 percent, due to increased availability after outages a year ago.

The European power generation sector has seen a resurgence in coal-fired power generation, thanks to an oversupply of cheap coal imports from the U.S. Ever since the country's' discovery of large reserves of shale gas, many U.S. power plants have been switching to cheap gas, leaving a glut of coal for export, according to Industrial Info.

Industrial Info reported on coal's resurgence in the power mix in January when figures for Q3 showed that coal accounted for 35.4 percent of the electricity generated in the U.K., up almost 50 percent on the same period in 2011. It was coal's strongest performance in 14 years and the weakest on record for gas over the same period.

Industrial Info is tracking more than 11,750 megawatts (MW) of new coal-fired power plants that are under construction in E.U. member states, including Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, as well as a 1,600-MW coal/biomass-fired plant in the Netherlands.