War in Ukraine led to global boom in renewables: Report

When Russia’s invasion of Ukraine put the world on alert about its energy security last year, fears spread that the clean energy transition would be derailed as retired coal-fired power plants came back onlineand oil and gas companies went back on their climate commitments amid soaring profits. But a year later, not only have renewable sources made an even bigger inroad into the global energy system, some experts say global fossil fuel use could begin to decline permanently as early as this year.

Ukraine’s war likely ended up accelerating, not retarding, the clean energy transition, as a near-term increase in fossil fuel use is overshadowed by many countries’ shift to renewable and nuclear energies to ensure their energy security, the International Energy Agency, a watchdog group, announced in February. Today, the share of global electricity generated by renewables, including wind and solar, is growing so rapidly that there may be no turning back, according to a new report released Wednesday by research firm Ember, an independent environmental nonprofit and think tank.

Renewables and nuclear power were responsible for a record 39% of global electricity generation last year, according to the report. Gains come almost entirely from new wind and solar installations, which now account for a record 12% of global electricity production, up from 10% in 2021. Growth in wind and solar alone last year was sufficient to meet 80% of all new electricity demand, while all renewables combined met 92%.

“In this decisive decade for the climate, it is the beginning of the end of the fossil era. We are entering the era of clean energy,” said Małgorzata Wiatros-Motyka, senior power analyst at Ember and lead author of the report, in a statement. “A new era of declining fossil emissions means the phasing out of coal power will happen and the end of gas power growth is now in sight.”

Reaching peak emissions

Increases in wind and solar power use last year far outpaced a slight increase in coal-fired generation, while natural gas consumption fell slightly due to high prices last year advised against its useaccording to the report, which analyzed data from 78 countries representing 93% of global electricity demand.

The skyrocketing affordability of renewables and the waning appeal of fossil fuels could mean that the global energy system is approaching a tipping point, where there is little incentive to keep mining coal. and gas to meet our electricity needs.

The report says the peak in power sector emissions, when greenhouse gas emissions from power generation peak before they start to decline, could occur as early as this year. The UN has warned that global emissions must peak before 2025 to avoid more catastrophic warming scenarios, and that reducing emissions from electricity generation and heating is key to achieving this goal, as the electricity sector accounted for 46% of emissions increase in 2021. The electricity sector must reach net zero emissions by 2040 to stay consistent with climate goals, according to the International Energy Agency.

Falling renewable energy prices and rising fossil fuel costs combine to make it possible for power sector emissions to peak this year, largely due to the war in Ukraine, which the Ember report called a “turning point” in the global transition to clean energy.

While many advanced economies have been eliminate charcoal For years, natural gas has been a harder habit to kick, but Russian President Vladimir Putin may have accelerated the transition last year by unilaterally shutting down the majority of Russian gas pipelines to Europe, its biggest buyer. historical.

As Europe turned to United States And Middle East for imports of liquefied natural gas, new solar installations in the EU have been 50% higher than in 2021. And the continent’s revised energy policy announced last year calls for 210 billion euros (231 billion dollars) of new investments until 2027, most of which is for renewable energy and partly financed by the approximately 100 billion euros that Europe will save on Russian fuel imports. The diet too increased the continent’s renewable energy target for 2030 with the aim of increasing national energy security.

But renewables were competitive with coal and gas long before the sharp reduction in the use of fossil fuels. Between 2020 and 2022, the cost of generating electricity of onshore wind decreased by 15% and by 13% for solar. In the United States, where clean energy technology is getting a huge boost from the Biden administration’s Cut Inflation Act, solar panels and wind turbines have proven to be cheaper than 99% of coal-fired power plants earlier this year.

Questions loom over the ability to scale renewables fast enough in countries where demand for electricity continues to grow, namely China and India, which the report says accounted for three-quarters of new demand over the past decade. In China, clean energy sources met 77% of new demand last year, while they accounted for 38% of demand growth in India, according to the report. But both countries remain heavily dependent on coal, especially China, which last year was responsible for more than half of the world’s coal-fired power generation. And unlike Europe, China remains a major buyer of Russian fueltrade that should increase considerably In the years to come.

The report said the impressive gains from the energy transition testify to the success of early policies and investments in renewable energy, but warned that there is still a disconnect in many countries between declared climate ambitions and actual policy, a divergence that must be reconciled to achieve a specific objective. energy goals.

“Change happens fast. However, it all depends on the actions taken now by governments, businesses and citizens to put the world on a clean energy path by 2040,” said Wiatros-Motyka.

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