Electricity carbon emissions could peak in 2023 as wind and solar surge
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Wind and solar energy could reach a record 12 per cent of global electricity generation in 2023, up from 10 per cent last year, climate think tank Ember has found.
In a new report, Ember said that wind and solar could push the world into an era of falling fossil-fuel generation and power sector emissions as early as this year.
Full decarbonisation of the power sector is considered crucial for the world to reduce its emissions due to rising electricity demand and the ability for electrification to unlock other emission cuts throughout the economy.
Record growth in wind and solar drove the emissions intensity of the world’s electricity to its lowest-ever level in 2022, the report states.
The carbon intensity of global electricity generation fell to a record low of 436 gCO2/kWh in 2022 - the cleanest-ever electricity.
Together, all clean electricity sources, which includes others renewables and nuclear, reached 39 per cent of global electricity. Solar generation rose by 24 per cent, making it the fastest-growing electricity source for 18 years in a row, while wind generation grew by 17 per cent.
The increase in global solar generation in 2022 could have met the annual electricity demand of South Africa, the report said, while the rise in wind generation could have powered almost all of the UK.
Over sixty countries now generate more than 10 per cent 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.
Overall, power sector emissions rose in 2022 by 1.3 per cent, as global electricity demand continued to increase.
Coal generation also increased by 1.1 per cent, which is in line with average growth in the last decade, despite dire warnings that the carbon-intensive fossil fuel is one of the most damaging climate change factors.
Nevertheless, the ongoing energy crisis, which has caused record high prices of natural gas and oil, has not caused a major increase in coal burning as feared.
The Ember report suggests that 2022 could represent “peak” power emissions if the increase in renewables continues at a similar pace.
Małgorzata Wiatros-Motyka, a senior electricity analyst at Ember, said: “In this decisive decade for the climate, it is the beginning of the end of the fossil age. We are entering the clean power era.
“The stage is set for wind and solar to achieve a meteoric rise to the top. 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.
“Change is coming fast. However, it all depends on the actions taken now by governments, businesses and citizens to put the world on a pathway to clean power by 2040.”
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