Weather-dependent renewable energy resources are playing a key role in decarbonizing electricity. There is a growing body of analysis on the impacts of wind and solar variability on power system operation. Existing studies tend to use a single or typical year of generation data, which overlooks the substantial year-to-year fluctuation in weather, or to only consider variation in the meteorological inputs, which overlooks the complex response of an interconnected power system. Here, we address these gaps by combining detailed continent-wide modeling of Europe's future power system with 30 years of historical weather data. The most representative single years are 1989 and 2012, but using multiple years reveals a 5-fold increase in Europe's inter-annual variability of CO2 emissions and total generation costs from 2015 to 2030. We also find that several metrics generalize to linear functions of variable renewable penetration: CO2 emissions, curtailment of renewables, wholesale prices, and total system costs.