Fossil gas supplied 22% of global electricity in 2021, and is a major contributor to climate change, responsible for 25% of power sector emissions.
Share of fossil gas in global electricity (%)
The 'golden age' of gas is over
After decades of uninterrupted growth, gas power has plateaued since the pandemic. Ember’s Global Electricity Review revealed that gas rose just 1% in 2021 after a fall of 1% in 2020. With fossil gas forecast to be the most expensive fuel in most countries over the coming years, including the EU, even its near-term future is in doubt. This year, for the first time, the IEA said that fossil gas will plateau this decade.
The United States is by far the world’s largest producer of electricity using gas (1,575 TWh), followed by Russia (500 TWh), Japan (310 TWh), and China (267 TWh).
For the IEA’s 1.5 degree pathway, unabated fossil gas power generation must not rise any further this decade, and fall rapidly thereafter. The IEA says OECD countries must have net zero power sectors by 2035, and the rest of the world’s electricity must reach net zero by 2040. Countries should now make clear targets for ending the use of gas in their power sectors, unless it can be combined with CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage).
Last updated: Nov 2022
The world's biggest fossil gas generators
Fossil gas is not a bridge to a safe climate
Once seen as a bridge fuel to fill the gap whilst clean power grew, recent events have revealed the folly of relying on gas. The 2021 global gas price crisis pushed energy bills to new heights – and then in 2022 Russia invaded Ukraine, skyrocketing gas prices to truly unprecedented levels.
Burning gas produces CO2 emissions, and gas leaks during the production and transportation of the fuel are a source of a greenhouse gas even more potent in the short term, methane. But the good news is that we have cleaner and cheaper alternatives like wind and solar that can rapidly replace it.
Our analysis shows that coal and gas power can be phased-out at the same time – if the country builds enough clean power. Countries like the United Kingdom have successfully reduced their dependence on coal and gas – thanks to the build-out of technologies like offshore wind. This saves consumers money, as well as reducing exposure to volatile international imports of fuel.