Wind and solar reach 10% milestone for global electricity generation share

04 APR 2022
Opinion articles Clean Energy

Wind and solar power accounted for 10 percent of global electricity share last year, a milestone enabled by a 23 percent increase in solar generation and a 14 percent increase in wind, according to a report from climate and energy thinktank Ember.  

“Wind and solar have arrived. The process that will reshape the existing energy system has begun. This decade they need to be deployed at lightning speed to reverse global emissions increases and tackle climate change,” Dave Jones, global lead, Ember, said in the Global Electricity Review 2022 report. Ember’s third annual review, released on March 30, aims to provide the most transparent and up-to-date overview of changes in the global electricity transition in 2021.

The report also noted that clean electricity sources – which alongside solar and wind include nuclear, hydro, and bioenergy – generated 38 percent of the world’s electricity in 2021, more than coal’s 36 percent.

However, the report found that coal power also rose by 9 percent in 2021 to 10,042 TWh, reaching a new all-time high. Although global electricity demand intensified, with a 1,414 TWh increase from 2020 to 2021, only 29 percent of that increase was met with wind and solar. The remaining demand was met by fossil fuels, with 59 percent met by coal generation alone. This contributed to a new record in CO2 emissions from the power sector, increasing 7 percent in 2021 (778 million tons), the biggest absolute rise ever.

“With sustained high gas prices amid Russia’s war with Ukraine, there is a real risk of relapse into coal, threatening the global 1.5 degrees climate goal. Clean electricity now needs to be built on a heroic scale. Leaders are only just waking up to the challenge of how quickly they need to move to 100 percent clean electricity,” Jones affirmed.

The Ember report stated that in order to keep global climate heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times, as targeted by the International Energy Agency (IEA), wind and solar energies must sustain high compound growth rates of 20 percent every year to 2030.