Environment

New report predicts the first global drop in fossil fuel-generated electricity due to renewable energy growth

Solar and wind power generated 12 per cent of the world's electricity in 2022.

solar panels renewable energy

Solar panels in Lincoln, Nebraska. Solar power grew by 24% last year. (Image: American Public Power Association/Unsplash)

The world may be on its way to a renewable energy future as fossil fuel-generated electricity is predicted to fall from this year onwards, according to a new report.

The Global Electricity Review for 2023, released yesterday (April 12) by energy think tank Ember, found wind and solar power generated 12 per cent of the world’s electricity  in 2022, two percentage points more than in 2021.

By contrast, gas-fired power generation declined by 0.2 per cent.

Ember predicted continued growth in renewable energy would lead to a further drop in fossil fuel-generated electricity from 2023 onwards, and suggested emissions from fossil fuel-generated energy peaked in 2022. 

The report, which analysed electricity data from 78 countries representing 93 per cent of global electricity demand, stated: “2022 will be remembered as a turning point in the world’s transition to clean power.”

It pointed to the invasion of Ukraine as a catalyst for “spiking fossil fuel prices” leading to an acceleration in alternative energy sources and ways of reducing fossil fuel consumption, such as heat pumps and electric vehicles.

Ember also said 50 per cent of the global addition of wind power and 40 per cent of the world’s new solar power came from China, which is the world’s biggest user of coal power. 

Electricity and heat production was responsible for nearly 40 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions in 2021, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Emissions from electricity generation reached an all-time high in 2022, Ember said, with just ten countries responsible for generating 80 per cent of global power sector emissions. 

Ember’s report said global electricity generation is still “dominated” by fossil fuels, as it provided 61 per cent of electricity generation in 2022, but praised the “impressive growth” of solar and wind power and a “historic” fall in nuclear generation. 


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Combining nuclear power, hydropower, as well as wind and solar, clean energy sources produced 39 per cent of the world’s electricity in 2022, meaning the electricity generation last year was the cleanest ever. 

The report said these figures show “a glimpse of the future clean electricity system” but cautioned against “continued – if slowing – growth in fossil fuels” which it said was “holding back progress for” the goal of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees. 

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The IEA suggests a global decrease of 8.3 per cent of coal-fired power plants and a 3 per cent decrease of gas-fired power plants annually between 2021 and 2030 in order to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest.

In 2022, there was an increase of 1.1 per cent in global coal generation and only a 0.2 per cent decrease in gas generation but Ember are hopeful that it “may be the final year of fossil growth and the peak of power sector emissions”.

The fall in fossil fuel-generated electricity in 2023 is expected to be less than 0.5 per cent but Ember believes the drop will continue and increase in the next decade. 

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