Global electricity sees record high of 30% generated from renewable sources

Renewable Power Generates Record-Breaking 30% of World’s Electricity, Experts Say

New data has revealed that renewable power accounted for a record-breaking 30% of the world’s electricity last year, marking a critical turning point in the fight against climate change. This milestone raises hopes that global greenhouse gas emissions will soon reach their peak.

However, experts have expressed concerns that many countries are facing obstacles in their transition to clean energy due to a lack of funding. The surge in renewable power last year was driven by a booming year for wind and solar energy, with China, Brazil, and the Netherlands leading the way in fast roll-outs, according to thinktank Ember’s annual Global Electricity Review.

Despite China’s continued construction of new coal power plants, the country accounted for 51% of new solar generation and 60% of new wind power. This growth has been attributed to the declining cost of renewable energy and storage, rendering traditional fossil fuels unable to compete.

Christiana Figueres, former United Nations climate chief, has hailed 2023 as a “critical turning point” in the transition to renewable energy. She stated that “outdated” fossil fuels are no match for the exponential innovations and declining cost curves of renewable energy and storage. “The entire planet and humanity will benefit from this shift,” she added.

Over the past two decades, solar and wind power have surpassed expectations and experienced rapid growth, increasing from just 0.2% of global power generation in 2000 to 13.4% in 2023. Dave Jones, head of global insights at Ember, attributes this significant growth to matured policies and technologies, as well as a drastic decrease in costs.

Despite a surge in demand, the cost of solar power was halved last year, thanks to a surge in manufacturing capacity. At the same time, issues that had previously hindered the growth of wind power, such as inflationary costs, have been resolved, unlocking more projects.

Last year, at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, leaders pledged to triple renewable power capacity by 2030, marking a “genuinely ambitious” target that demonstrates their commitment to clean energy. According to Mr. Jones, this target shows that leaders are prioritizing renewables as the main tool for achieving significant emissions reductions, rather than relying on riskier technologies like carbon capture.

Ember predicts that global fossil fuel consumption in the power sector likely peaked in 2023 and will start to decline this year, resulting in a decrease in pollution and emissions. As the power sector accounts for the largest share of global emissions, this decrease could lead to an overall decline in global emissions.

While this is a positive development in the fight against climate change, scientists warn that emissions are not falling fast enough to limit global warming to safer levels. Mr. Jones states that the pace of emission reductions “depends on how fast the renewables revolution continues.”

Joab Okanda, a senior adviser for Christian Aid based in Kenya, believes that the transition to clean energy can be accelerated with the right investments in African nations. These countries often face higher borrowing costs, hindering their ability to switch to renewable energy.

Hanan Morsy, deputy executive secretary and chief economist at the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa, believes that the continent has significant potential for renewable energy but is currently only receiving a small share of global investments. She calls for financial reforms to make affordable and new types of funding accessible. Financing the clean energy transition in developing nations, which have contributed the least to climate change, will be a crucial topic at this year’s UN climate summit, COP29 in Azerbaijan.

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