World passes 30% renewable electricity milestone, claims new report

Energy & Efficiency, News

Growth in solar and wind pushed the world past 30% renewable electricity for the first time in 2023, according to a report by global energy think tank Ember. 

Since 2000, renewables have expanded from 19% to more than 30% of global electricity, driven by an increase in solar and wind from 0.2% in 2000 to a record 13.4% in 2023. 

As a result, the CO2 intensity of global power generation reached a new record low in 2023, 12% lower than its peak in 2007.

The report concludes that the rapid growth in solar and wind has brought the world to a crucial turning point – likely this year – where fossil generation starts to decline at a global level. 

The Global Electricity Review provides the first comprehensive overview of the global power system in 2023 based on country-level data. It is published today alongside the world’s first open dataset on electricity generation in 2023 covering 80 countries representing 92% of global electricity demand, as well as historic data for 215 countries.

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

Solar was the main supplier of electricity growth, adding more than twice as much new electricity generation as coal in 2023. Solar maintained its status as the fastest-growing electricity source for the nineteenth consecutive year, and surpassed wind to become the largest source of new electricity for the second year running.

Renewable generation growth could have been even higher in 2023, but hydropower generation reached a five-year low amid droughts in China and other parts of the world. 

Under normal conditions, the clean capacity added during 2023 would have been enough to enable a 1.1% fall in fossil generation. 

However, the shortfall in hydropower was met by an increase in coal generation, which led to a 1% increase in global power sector emissions. 95% of the coal generation rise in 2023 occurred in four countries that were severely affected by droughts: China, India, Vietnam and Mexico.

Nonetheless, the report shows that expected clean electricity growth gives confidence that a new era of declining power sector emissions is about to begin, with a projected 2% decrease in global fossil generation in 2024.

“The decline of power sector emissions is now inevitable,” continued Jones. “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.”

At the UN’s COP28 climate change conference in December, world leaders reached a historic agreement to triple global renewables capacity by 2030. The target would see the world reach 60% renewable electricity by 2030, which would almost halve power sector emissions and put the world on a pathway aligned with the 1.5C climate goal.

Chris Price
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