Global wind and solar growth on track to meet climate targets

FILE PHOTO: Electricity generating wind turbines can be seen at the Eneco Luchterduinen offshore wind farm near Amsterdam
FILE PHOTO: Wind turbines generating electricity are seen at the Eneco Luchterduinen offshore wind farm near Amsterdam, the Netherlands, September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Yves Herman

March 30, 2022

PARIS (Reuters) – Solar and wind energy can grow enough to limit global warming to 1.5C if the 10-year average growth rate of 20% can be maintained through 2030, independent climate think tank Ember has said in a report on Wednesday.

Global solar power generation grew 23% in 2021, while wind power grew 14% over the same period. Together, both renewable sources accounted for 10.3% of total global electricity generation, up 1% from 2020, data from Ember showed.

The Netherlands, Australia and Vietnam have had the fastest growth rates in renewable sources, switching around 10% of their electricity needs from fossil fuels to wind and solar over the past two years, they said.

“If these trends can be replicated and sustained globally, the energy sector would be on track to meet the 1.5 degree target,” Ember said in her report.

The main issue slowing the rate of growth right now is local restrictions like permits, and if governments want to accelerate growth they need to address issues that are slowing deployment, said Dave Jones, Ember’s global lead.

Despite gains in wind and solar, however, coal-fired power generation has seen its fastest growth since at least 1985, up 9% in 2021 to 10,042 terawatt-hours (TWh), or 59% of total demand growth, the report said.

This came in a year of rapid recovery in demand as 2021 saw the largest recorded annual increase in global electricity demand of 1,414 TWh in 2021, up 5.4% and the equivalent of adding a new India to global demand, they said.

“We’re nearing the break-even point where wind and solar can meet new electricity demand, but we’re not quite there yet. If we maintain the growth rates we’re seeing, we’ll be there before long,” Jones said.

The biggest surge in demand was in China, up 13% in 2021 from pre-pandemic levels in 2019, the data showed.

The country relies largely on coal for electricity generation, but joined six other countries in 2021 to surpass a tenth of electricity generation from wind and solar for the first time, the report said.

Not only is China “installing record amounts of wind and solar power, but it’s also installing record amounts of clean hydroelectric, nuclear and bioenergy power, which means its coal production is starting to decline,” Jones said.

“What’s not clear is how quickly that will be,” he added.

China plans to continue using coal as an essential part of its energy strategy as it seeks to balance economic stability with its longer-term climate goals.

(Reporting by Forrest Crellin; Editing by David Gregorio) Global wind and solar growth on track to meet climate targets

Bobby Allyn

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