A Report published today reveals that wind and solar, the fastest-growing sources of electricity, reached a record 10% of global electricity in 2021. The milestone has now been reached by 50 countries around the world. Overall, clean sources generated 38% of the world’s electricity in 2021, more than coal (36%).
“Wind and solar have arrived,” said Ember’s global lead Dave Jones. “The process that will reshape the existing energy system has begun. This decade they need to be deployed at lightning speed to reverse global emissions increases and tackle climate change.”
Ember’s third annual Global Electricity Review was released today alongside all the underlying data. The dataset and report cover electricity generation for 209 countries from 2000 to 2020, with the latest data for 2021 for 75 countries representing 93% of global power demand.
The report reveals that 50 countries generated more than a tenth of their electricity from wind and solar in 2021, including all five of the world’s largest economies. Seven new countries passed the landmark for the first time in 2021: China, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Argentina, Hungary, and El Salvador. Across the world, the share of wind and solar has doubled since 2015 when the Paris Agreement was signed.
The fastest transformation is happening in the Netherlands, Australia and Viet Nam, which have seen around a tenth of electricity demand switch from fossil fuels to wind and solar in just the last two years. Ten countries generated more than a quarter of their electricity from wind and solar in 2021, led by Denmark at 52%, demonstrating that high levels of variable renewables can be successfully integrated into the grid.
Electricity demand rebounded, leading to a record rise in CO2 and coal
Electricity demand rebounded after the pandemic to the largest ever annual increase in 2021 (+1,414 TWh), the equivalent of adding a new India to the world’s electricity demand. Despite record growth in wind and solar generation, they only met 29% of the global increase in electricity demand in 2021, with the rest met by fossil fuels.
As a result, in 2021, coal power saw the fastest growth since at least 1985 (+9%), rising to a new all-time high of 10,042 TWh. The record rise in coal was not matched by global gas generation, which increased by only 1% in 2021. The increase in fossil fuels pushed global power sector CO2 emissions to an all-time high, beating the previous record in 2018 by 3%.
High wind and solar growth rates need to be sustained
Wind and solar generation grew by 17% in 2021. To get the power sector on track for 1.5 degrees, wind and solar need to sustain compound growth rates of 20% every year to 2030, which was the average rate of growth over the last decade.
“Clean electricity now needs to be built on a heroic scale,” said Ember’s global lead Dave Jones. “Leaders are only just waking up to the challenge of how quickly they need to move 100% clean electricity.”
The electricity sector shoulders the biggest burden on the pathway to keeping global heating to no more than 1.5 degrees. In May 2021, the International Energy Agency (IEA) published its Net Zero by 2050 report, which shows the electricity sector needs to move from being the highest emitting sector in 2020 to being the first sector to hit net zero globally by 2040. A new report-The Global Electricity Review by Ember gives an overview of the changes in the global electricity transition in 2021 and shows the year-on-year change in the electricity mix.
The analysis reveals how wind and solar must sustain high compound growth rates of 20% every year to 2030 in order to keep 1.5C within reach. 2021 just fell short of that target (+17%), but leading countries are showing how it can be achieved.The dataset and report cover electricity generation for 209 countries from 2000 to 2020, with the latest data for 2021 for 75 countries representing 93% of global power demand.
The writer of this article is Dr. Seema Javed, a known Environmentalist, Journalist and Communications Expert