A new report indicates that the world will likely experience a decrease in fossil fuel usage for electricity production this year, marking a “turning point” in favour of eco-friendly energy.
It would be the first-ever annual decline in coal, oil, and gas usage for electricity generation, excluding instances of global recessions or pandemics. Consequently, fewer greenhouse gases will be released during energy production.
The anticipated change is primarily attributed to a surge in renewable energy adoption, predominantly in China. Wind and solar now account for 12 percent of global electricity production, with enough wind turbines installed in 2022 to power almost the entire UK. According to Ember’s study, renewables are expected to satisfy all growth in demand this year.
Producing electricity is the largest contributor to global warming, accounting for over a third of energy-related carbon emissions in 2021. Therefore, phasing out fossil fuels in the electricity sector is critical for mitigating climate change.
The report, based on data from countries representing 93 percent of global electricity demand, highlights the ongoing rise of solar and wind energy as economically viable alternatives. Solar power experienced a 24 percent increase last year, sufficient to meet the annual demands of a country as large as South Africa.
Clean energy sources, including nuclear and hydropower, generated 39 percent of global electricity in 2022.
Despite these positive developments, carbon emissions from the sector continued to increase due to a rise in coal usage. Overall electricity demand grew, and not all of it was met by clean sources. Additionally, nuclear and hydroelectric power faced challenges in 2022, with several French reactors offline and low water levels in European rivers.
However, the study predicts that the growth of wind and solar energy in 2023 will surpass the increase in demand, starting to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Although the anticipated decline in fossil fuel emissions this year is expected to be modest (around 0.3 percent), the report’s authors believe this trend will continue and accelerate in the coming years.
China, the world’s largest coal power user, is playing a significant role in this change, contributing 50 percent of the global addition of wind power and around 40 percent of new solar installations.
With China’s rapid adoption of clean energy sources, it could potentially reach peak coal generation earlier than 2025, which would be a substantial achievement. While this shift away from fossil fuels in power generation marks a “turning point,” experts emphasise that more must be done to fully decarbonize electricity in a shorter time frame.
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