(London, 13 August 2020) Wind and solar reached a record-high market share of 10% of global electricity in the first half of 2020, up by 14% compared to the same period last year despite a 3% drop in demand globally due to the impact of COVID-19. These two factors led to the largest half-year fall in coal generation since at least 1990 and meant that this year, for the first time, the world’s coal fleet ran at less than half of its capacity.
The report published today by think tank Ember is a half-year analysis of the global electricity transition, analysing 48 countries that represent 83% of global electricity.
It finds that:
- Wind and solar generation rose 14% in the first half of this year (H1-2020) compared to H1-2019, generating almost a tenth (9.8%) of global electricity. In the 48 countries analysed, wind and solar generation rose from 992 terawatt hours in 2019 to 1,129 terawatt hours in H1-2020. That meant wind and solar’s share of global electricity has risen from 8.1% in 2019 to 9.8% in H1-2020; their share more than doubled from 4.6% in 2015, when the Paris Climate Agreement was signed. Wind and solar generated almost as much CO2-free power as nuclear power plants, which generated 10.5% of global electricity in H1-2020 and whose share remained unchanged from 2019.
- Many key countries now generate around a tenth of their electricity from wind and solar: China (10%), the US (12%), India (10%), Japan (10%), Brazil (10%) and Turkey (13%). The EU and UK were substantially higher with 21% and 33% respectively; within the EU, Germany rose to 42%. Russia is the largest country to so far shun wind and solar, with just 0.2% of its electricity from wind and solar.
- Global coal generation fell 8.3% in the first half of 2020, compared to H1-2019. This follows on from a year-on-year fall of 3% in 2019, which was the biggest fall since at least 1990. The fall in H1-2020 is because electricity demand fell globally by 3.0% in H1-2020 due to COVID-19, as well as due to rising wind and solar. Although 70% of coal’s fall in H1-2020 can be attributed to lower electricity demand due to COVID-19, 30% can be attributed to increased wind and solar generation. The US and the EU are racing to reduce coal, with falls of 31% and 32% respectively. China’s coal fell only 2%, meaning its share of global coal generation rose to 54% so far this year, up from 50% in 2019 and 44% in 2015.
- Wind and solar have captured a five percentage points market share from coal since 2015. Coal’s share fell from 37.9% in 2015 to 33.0% in the first half of 2020, as wind and solar grew from 4.6% to 9.8%. India’s change was even more dramatic: wind and solar’s share rose from 3% of total generation in 2015 to 10% in the first half of 2020; at the same time, coal’s share fell from 77% to 68%. For the first time, the world’s coal fleet ran at less than half of its capacity this year.
- The global electricity transition is off-track for 1.5 degrees. Coal needs to fall by 13% every year this decade, and even in the face of a global pandemic coal generation has only reduced 8% in the first half of 2020. The IPCC’s 1.5 degree scenarios shows coal needs to fall to just 6% of global generation by 2030, from 33% in H1-2020. The IPCC shows in all scenarios most of coal’s replacement is with wind and solar.
Dave Jones, Senior electricity analyst at Ember, said:
“Countries across the world are now on the same path – building wind turbines and solar panels to replace electricity from coal and gas-fired power plants. But to keep a chance of limiting climate change to 1.5 degrees, coal generation needs to fall by 13% every year this decade. The fact that, during a global pandemic, coal generation has still only fallen by 8% shows just how far off-track we still are. We have the solution, it’s working, it’s just not happening fast enough.”