Wind and solar energy generated 12 percent of global electricity generation last year, up from 10 percent in 2021, says a report by Ember, an independent energy think tank.
According to the report, the carbon intensity of global electricity generation fell to a record low of 436 gCO2/kWh in 2022, the cleanest-ever electricity, due to record growth in wind and solar, which reached a 12 percent share in the global electricity mix.
gCO2/kWh is a unit of measurement used to quantify the carbon dioxide emissions associated with producing one kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity. It represents the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted into the atmosphere for every kWh of electricity generated.
“Together, all clean electricity sources (renewables and nuclear) reached 39 percent of global electricity, a new record high. Solar generation rose by 24 percent, making it the fastest-growing electricity source for 18 years; wind generation grew by 17 percent,” the report said.
The energy company also said that the increase in global solar generation in 2022 could have met the annual electricity demand of South Africa, and the rise in wind generation could have powered almost all of the UK. Over sixty countries now generate more than 10 percent of their electricity from wind and solar.
However, other clean electricity sources dropped for the first time since 2011 due to a fall in nuclear output and fewer new nuclear and hydro plants coming online.
“In this decisive decade for the climate, is the beginning of the end of the fossil age. We are entering the clean power era. The stage is set for wind and solar to achieve a meteoric rise to the top. Clean electricity will reshape the global economy, from transport to industry and beyond,” said Malgorzata Wiatros-Motyka, senior electricity analyst, Ember.
“A new era of falling fossil emissions means the coal power phasedown will happen, and the end of gas power growth is now within sight. Change is coming fast. However, it all depends on the action’s governments, businesses, and citizens take to put the world on a pathway to clean power by 2040.”
The report added that a new era of falling power sector emissions is very close, thanks to wind and solar electricity superpowers. Even as they mature, wind and solar must maintain high growth rates this decade.
“More growth is needed from all other clean electricity sources, while more attention to efficiency is needed to avoid runaway growth in electricity demand,” the report said.
“Urgent work is needed on ensuring wind and solar can be integrated into the grid: planning permissions, grid connections, grid flexibility and market design.”
According to Ember, falling fossil generation means not only that the coal power phasedown will happen, but also that–for the first time–a gas power phasedown is now within reach. However, just how quickly power sector emissions will fall is not yet set.
The report further said that clean power growth will likely exceed electricity demand growth in 2023; this would be the first year for this to happen outside of a recession.
“With average growth in electricity demand and clean power, we forecast that 2023 will see a small fall in fossil generation (-47 TWh, -0.3 percent), with bigger falls in subsequent years as wind and solar grow further,” the report said.