A new era of falling emissions in the power sector
As soon as 2023, wind and solar could push the world into a new era of falling fossil generation, and therefore of falling power sector emissions.
Fossil fuels are still used to make 61% of the world’s electricity, but the extraordinary growth rate of low-carbon wind and solar power has put fossil power on a downward trend. Together wind and solar now generate more than 12% of the world’s electricity, more than twice the share compared to 2015 when the Paris Climate Agreement was signed.
The largest source of electricity is coal (36%), which is single-handedly responsible for a quarter of all energy-related CO2 emissions. However, when combined, clean electricity sources now generate 39% of the world’s electricity – including hydro (15%), nuclear (9%), wind (7.6%) and solar (4.5%) power.
Electricity demand continues to climb, growing 2.5% in 2022, in line with the average in the last decade. More people are gaining access to electricity. Other sectors are electrifying, including transport and heat. This means clean power has to grow to meet new demand before it begins to reduce fossil fuel generation.
The good news is that in 2022, wind and solar met 80% of the growth in electricity demand. Ember’s Global Electricity Review forecasts that clean electricity will exceed all the world’s growth in demand in 2023, marking the start of a new era of falling power sector emissions.
Just how quickly emissions will fall in the decade ahead is not yet set. It all depends on the actions taken now by governments, businesses and citizens to put the world on a pathway to clean power by 2040.
According to the IEA Net Zero Emissions scenario, all countries need a net-zero power system by at least 2040, phasing out both unabated coal and gas. This would mean wind and solar reaching 41% of global electricity by 2030, compared to 12% in 2022.
Last updated: April 2023