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Solar and wind make record gains in 2019 producing 10 per cent of global power

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Solar and wind were responsible for generating 10 per cent of the world’s electricity in the first half of 2019 according to a new report highlighting the global shift towards renewable energy.

Climate change think-tank Ember said that solar and wind generation rose 14 per cent in the first half of this year compared to the same period last year, generating 9.8 per cent of global electricity compared to 8.1 per cent last year.

Part of this sharp rise is attributed to plummeting energy demand in the wake of the coronavirus that saw less need for energy facilities powered by coal or natural gas.

In April, the UK recorded its longest coal-free period since pre-industrial times following the coronavirus-induced lockdown.

But while Ember said 70 per cent of coal’s fall this year can be attributed to lower electricity demand due to Covid-19, 30 per cent was directly due to increased wind and solar generation.

It added that the renewables generated almost as much CO2-free power as nuclear power plants this year, which generated 10.5 per cent of global electricity.

It found the increasing popularity of renewables was repeated in key countries around the world: China (10 per cent), the US (12 per cent), India (10 per cent), Japan (10 per cent), Brazil (10 per cent) and Turkey (13 per cent).

The EU and UK were found to be substantially higher with 21 per cent and 33 per cent respectively, although Russia has largely shunned the trend, generating just 0.2 per cent of its electricity from wind and solar.

Nevertheless, despite the impressive gains on paper, Ember said the world is still off-track to meet targets set by the Paris Agreement to keep global temperature rises no more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

“Countries across the world are now on the same path – building wind turbines and solar panels to replace electricity from coal and gas-fired power plants,” said Dave Jones, senior electricity analyst at Ember.

“But to keep a chance of limiting climate change to 1.5°C, coal generation needs to fall by 13 per cent every year this decade.

“The fact that, during a global pandemic, coal generation has still only fallen by 8 per cent shows just how far off-track we still are. We have the solution, it’s working, it’s just not happening fast enough.”

Next year, construction on the UK’s largest solar farm, which will be capable of generating 350MW, will begin on the North Kent coast. 

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