Renewable energy surpasses 30% of global electricity supply for first time ever

According to Ember’s executive summary of the report, record solar and wind construction in 2023 means “a new era of falling fossil generation is imminent.”


According to the new Global Electricity Review 2024 from thinktank Ember, renewable energy now exceeds more than 30 percent of the world’s electricity supply, following a fast rise in solar and wind power.

According to Ember’s executive summary of the report, record solar and wind construction in 2023 means “a new era of falling fossil generation is imminent.”

“The renewables future has arrived,” said Dave Jones, Ember’s global insights director. “Solar, in particular, is accelerating faster than anyone thought possible.”

The report pointed out that, while electricity demand worldwide has continued to rise, renewables have helped slow fossil fuel growth by nearly two-thirds in the past decade, The Guardian reported.

The report found that green energy had increased from 19 percent of the power supply in 2000. The main contributor to the growth was solar, which added more than twice the generation of new electricity as coal last year. Solar’s surge was the fastest for the 19th year in a row and the biggest new electricity source again after surpassing wind power last year.

“The decline of power sector emissions is now inevitable. 2023 was likely the pivot point — peak emissions in the power sector — a major turning point in the history of energy. But the pace of emissions falls depends on how fast the renewables revolution continues,” Jones said, according to Ember.

The report looked at power data from 215 countries. The analysis included the latest data from 2023 for 80 countries that represented 92 percent of electricity demand around the globe. It also examined data for 13 economic and geographic groupings like the European Union, Asia, Africa and the Group of Seven largest developed economies in the world.

At the United Nations COP28 climate change conference at the end of 2023, world leaders set a target of reaching 60 percent of global electricity being supplied by clean energy by 2030. The goal would mean countries would have to triple their current renewables capacity in the coming six years, reported The Guardian.

“The good news is we already know the key enablers that help countries unleash the full potential of solar and wind. There’s an unprecedented opportunity for countries that choose to be at the forefront of the clean energy future. Expanding clean electricity not only helps to decarbonise the power sector. It also provides the step up in supply needed to electrify the whole economy; and that’s the real game-changer for the climate,” Jones said in Ember’s summary of the report.

Ember added that global power generation’s carbon dioxide intensity fell to 12 percent below its peak in 2007 — a new record low.

“The speed of solar and wind expansion is remarkable and a sign that society can bring about rapid change,” said Niklas Höhne, a climate scientist with the NewClimate Institute, who did not contribute to Ember’s research, as CNN reported.

Drought conditions caused a record fall in the generation of hydropower to a five year low, Ember said. The shortfall was met by a rise in coal power generation. Nearly all — 95 percent — of the increase in coal generation last year was in four drought-stricken countries: India, China, Vietnam and Mexico.

Ember’s forecast was for fossil fuel generation to “fall slightly” this year, but for the decrease to grow in subsequent years.

Ember said electricity demand growth was expected to be higher this year, but that the increase in green energy generation was predicted to be even greater, resulting in a reduction in global fossil fuel production of two percent.

“The decade ahead will see the energy transition enter a new phase,” Ember said. “Clean electricity additions – led by solar and wind – are already forecast to outpace demand growth in the coming decade, securing moderate reductions in fossil fuel use and hence emissions, even as demand accelerates to meet the growing needs of electrification and other booming technologies.”

Ember said green power was key to the decarbonization of heating, transportation and much of industry.

“An accelerating transition to a clean electrified economy powered by wind, solar and other forms of clean energy will also unlock benefits in areas such as economic growth, jobs, air quality and energy sovereignty,” Ember said.

Nancy Haegel, a National Renewable Energy Laboratory research advisor, told CNN that, while the report “does provide hope,” the question was whether the transition to renewables would happen quickly enough.

“Choices in the next 10 years are critical,” Haegel said.


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