- Renewables accounted for a rising portion of electricity generation in 2020, slowly eating into coal’s market share.
- Solar and wind power constitute almost 10% of electricity generated worldwide in the first half of the year.
- Still, the pace of change is not sufficient to reduce carbon emissions and meet the global climate targets.
Solar and wind power accounted for a rising portion of electricity generation in 2020, slowly eating into coal’s market share. But the pace of change is too slow to meet the global climate goals, says a report by Ember, a U.K.-based nonprofit research organization.
Those two renewable sources surged 14% in the first half this year compared to the same period in 2019. Combined, solar and wind power now constitute almost 10% of electricity generated worldwide.
The financial crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has depressed global demand for energy and especially fossil fuels. Coal’s share of global electricity generation fell by a record amount of 8.3% in the first half of this year compared with the same period last year.
Gains in renewable energy contributed to coal’s slow descent, says Dave Jones, an electricity analyst and co-author of the report.
Renewables is “now at a level where it is making a noticeable impact of generating a large amount of the world’s electricity generation. And it’s increasingly taking away market share from coal generation,” Jones told Karma. “And we know that’s what needs to happen to stop runaway climate change.”
Ember’s analyses covered 48 countries that collectively produce 83% of the world’s electricity output.
Europe leads the pack of regions that get the highest share of their electricity from renewables such as wind and solar power. The U.K. derived 33% of its electricity from renewables while Germany peaked at 42%.
Russia is an outlier that has made little inroads in expanding its use of renewable energy as the country gets just 0.2% of its electricity output from wind and solar power.
Meanwhile, the U.S. gets 12% of its electricity from wind and solar power while India and China each get a tenth of their power from renewables.
Yet, electricity generation constitutes only about 19% of global energy use, according to the International Energy Agency and other remaining sectors such as heavy industry, aviation and sea transport have proven difficult to decarbonize.
The pace of change is not sufficient “coal needs to fall by 13% every year this decade,” says the report, if the world aims to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Accord which asks participating nations to reduce their carbon emissions to keep global temperatures from rising above 2 degrees Celsius.
The world needs to redouble its investment efforts into alternative energy.
“Wind and solar can provide the answer, ” Jones told Karma. “They just need to provide the answer even quicker.”