Global Electricity Review 2020

Ember’s Global Electricity Review is a comprehensive look at the international electricity transition.

Dave Jones

Head of Data Insights


8 March 2020 | 2 min read


This report showcases a new global dataset for electricity generation & demand across 217 countries. Data for 2019 covers 85% of the world’s electricity production.

Each year, we aim to be the earliest authoritative report to give insights into last year’s global electricity generation changes – offering an unbiased picture of the transition to fossil-free electricity.

The entire dataset is freely available for others to perform their own analysis.

Executive summary

Key findings

  • 01

    Global coal-fired electricity generation fell by 3% in 2019

    The fall in coal led to a 2% fall in CO2 power sector emissions. Both of these are the biggest falls since at least 1990. Coal collapsed in the EU and the US; but Chinese coal generation rose and for the first time was responsible for half of global coal generation. The carbon intensity of global electricity is now 15% lower than in 2010.

  • 02

    Falling coal generation is not yet the “new normal”

    Limiting climate change to 1.5 degrees is looking extremely difficult. The coal fall in 2019, as well as relying on the structural shift towards wind and solar, relied on many other one-off factors. Progress is being made on reducing coal generation, but with nothing like the urgency needed to meet global climate goals, especially in Asia.

  • 03

    Wind and solar generated 8% of the world’s electricity in 2019

    Wind and solar generation rose by 15% in 2019. Compound growth rate of 15% of wind and solar generation is needed every year to meet the Paris climate agreement. This was achieved in 2019 and lower prices provide hope it can be sustained. However, maintaining this high growth rate as volumes scale up will require a concerted effort from all regions.

  • 04

    The US coal collapse is undermined by a switch to gas, whereas the EU is leapfrogging from coal to wind and solar.

    Coal generation collapsed by 24% in the EU and 16% in the US in 2019, and is now half the level of 2007 in both the EU and US. Since 2007, US CO2 power sector emissions fell by 19-32%, whereas they fell by 43% in the EU.

The global decline of coal and power sector emissions is good news for the climate but governments have to dramatically accelerate the electricity transition so that global coal generation collapses throughout the 2020s. To switch from coal into gas is just swapping one fossil fuel for another. The cheapest and quickest way to end coal generation is through a rapid roll-out of wind and solar. But without concerted policy-maker efforts to boost wind and solar, we will fail to meet climate targets. China’s growth in coal, and to some extent gas, is alarming but the answers are all there. The EU leaps out with 18% of electricity now coming from wind and solar, but with the US on 11%, China at 9% and India at 8% – the race is on.

Dave Jones Electricity Analyst, Ember