March 2, 2024

Oredola Adeola

The worldwide electricity generation has been pushed to its cleanest-ever level, as 12% of the world’s power came from solar and wind in 2022, up from 10% of global electricity generation in 2021, Ember, an independent climate think tank, revealed in an analysis published on Wednesday.

EnergyDay gathered that Ember in its fourth annual Global Electricity review provided the most transparent and up-to-date overview of changes in global electricity generation in 2022 and a realistic summary of how “on track” the electricity transition is for limiting global heating to 1.5 degrees.

According to the report, solar energy was the fastest-growing source of electricity for the 18th consecutive year, rising by 24% year-on-year and adding enough power to meet the annual electricity demand of South Africa.

Wind-generated power, on the other hand, increased, thereby contributing about 17% to electricity generated in 2022, estimated to have powered almost all of the United Kingdom.

The analysis — which was based on electricity data from 78 countries last year and represents 93% of global power demand — showed that more than 60 countries now generate over 10% of their electricity from wind and solar.

The report stated that renewables and nuclear sources were collectively found to have accounted for 39% of global electricity generation in 2022 — at a new record high.

It said, “Over sixty countries now generate more than 10% of their electricity from wind and solar. However, other sources of clean electricity dropped for the first time since 2011 due to a fall in nuclear output and fewer new nuclear and hydro plants coming online.

 

COAL POWER IS THE CHIEF DRIVER OF CLIMATE EMERGENCY

The analysis showed that coal and other fossil fuels met the remaining gap, driving up emissions to a new record high.

The analysis found coal, the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel, to be the single largest source of electricity worldwide last year, producing 36% of global power.

It said, “The ‘coal power phasedown’ agreed at COP26 in 2021 may not have begun in 2022, but also the energy crisis didn’t lead to a major increase in coal burn as many feared.

“Gas power generation fell marginally (-0.2%) in 2022–for the second time in three years–in the wake of high gas prices globally.

“Gas-to-coal switching was limited in 2022 because gas was already mostly more expensive than coal in 2021. Only 31 GW of new gas power plants were built in 2022, the lowest in 18 years.

The report however stated that 2022 saw the lowest number of coal plant closures in seven years, adding that countries look to maintain backup capacity, even as the transition picks up speed.

The analysis noted that wind and solar are slowing the rise in power sector emissions.

It emphasised that “if all the electricity from wind and solar instead came from fossil generation, power sector emissions would have been 20% higher in 2022.

“The growth alone in wind and solar generation (+557 TWh) met 80% of global electricity demand growth in 2022 (+694 TWh). Clean power growth is likely to exceed electricity demand growth in 2023; this would be the first year for this to happen outside of a recession.

Ember further predicted that 2023 will see a small fall in fossil generation (-47 TWh, -0.3%), with bigger falls in subsequent years as wind and solar grow further, based on average growth in electricity demand and clean power recorded in 2022.

It noted that the report emphasised that a new era of falling power sector emissions is close, as 2022 hits “peak” emissions.

 

EXPERT REACTIONS

Małgorzata Wiatros-Motyka, senior electricity analyst at Ember and lead author of the research, in his remark on the review said, revealed that the stage is set for wind and solar to achieve a meteoric rise to the top.

He said, “Clean electricity will reshape the global economy, from transport to industry and beyond.

“A new era of falling fossil emissions means the coal power phasedown will happen, and the end of gas power growth is now within sight.”

He hinted that 2022 will be remembered as a turning point in the world’s transition to clean power.

According to him, “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine made many governments rethink their plans amid spiking fossil fuel prices and security concerns about relying on fossil fuel imports.

” That year 2022, also accelerated electrification: more heat pumps, more electric vehicles, more electrolysers. These will drive reductions in emissions for other sectors and will put more pressure to build clean power more quickly.

“A new era of falling power sector emissions is very close, thanks to the electricity superpowers of wind and solar. Wind and solar will need to maintain high growth rates this decade, even as they mature.

“More growth is needed from all other clean electricity sources, while more attention to efficiency is needed to avoid runaway growth in electricity demand.

He insisted that urgent work is needed on ensuring wind and solar can be integrated into the grid: planning permissions, grid connections, grid flexibility and market design.

According to him, falling fossil generation means not only that the coal power phasedown will happen, but also that–for the first time–a gas power phasedown is now within reach. However, just how quickly power sector emissions will fall is not yet set.

Damilola Ogunbiyi, CEO and special representative of the U.N. Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All, in her review of the report, said that much more needs to be done to ensure that developing countries are not left behind and locked into high carbon futures.

She said the fact that coal power remained the single largest source of electricity worldwide last year reaffirmed the point that the power sector is off track to meet net-zero targets.

Ogunbiyi said, “The deployment of wind and solar needs to be massively and urgently accelerated.”