According to a new report from the climate think tank Ember, the rapid growth that has been going on for solar and wind power could allow the global electricity sector to do its part in limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
In 2021, solar power grew by 23% worldwide and wind power grew by 14%. The Netherlands, Australia, and Vietnam had the largest gains in renewable energy. Solar power in Vietnam grew by 337%.
The trends over the past decade, if continued across the globe, would result in the power sector being on track for meeting climate goals. But not all the news is good. The overall power sector has not been adequately reducing emissions. Coal power actually grew by 9% last year as a result of increased demand for power during the rapid economic recovery in the easing of the pandemic shutdowns. A spike in natural gas prices made coal more cost-competitive.
In order for the power sector to do its part in keeping warming below 1.5 degrees, wind and solar power will need to provide 40% of the world’s power by 2030 and nearly 70% by 2050. Today, they supply only 10% of the world’s electricity.
With rising gas prices during Russia’s war with Ukraine, there is real danger of increased use of coal, threatening the gains made by renewable energy.
Nonetheless, a study published in Oxford Open Energy modeled various scenarios for the growth of renewable energy and found that it is feasible to meet climate goals. In order to achieve this, countries’ policies will need to stimulate significant increases in energy and resource efficiency and rapid deployment of low-carbon technologies, promote strong environmental actions, and encourage low population growth.
Photo, posted October 11, 2011, courtesy of Michael Coghlan via Flickr.