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Wind, solar power surge in G20, but climate targets remain out of reach

The decline can be attributed to the increasing use of wind and solar power. However, the transition is not happening at the pace needed

By Ground report
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Wind, solar power surge in G20, but climate targets remain out of reach

As per the latest analysis from the fourth annual Global Electricity Review, conducted by energy think tank Ember, there has been a decline in the share of electricity generated by coal in G20 countries since the Paris Agreement.

The decline can be attributed to the increasing use of wind and solar power. However, the transition is not happening at the pace needed to effectively limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. However, there are some positive signs of progress.

The analysis reveals that by 2022, the combined share of wind and solar power in the G20 countries reached 13%, representing an increase of 5% since 2015.

Wind power's share doubled during this period, while solar power quadrupled. As a result, the share of electricity generated from coal, which stood at 43% in 2015, is expected to decline to 39% by 2022.

The contribution from other sources of electricity remained relatively stable, experiencing only a slight decrease of 1 or 2 per cent.

G20's renewable energy progress

According to the IPCC report, the adoption of wind and solar energy can contribute significantly to achieving one-third of the emission reductions needed by 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Encouragingly, half of the emission reductions achieved through wind and solar power would generate cost savings compared to the reference scenario.

Mavgozata Viatros Moteka, a senior analyst at Ember, stressed the importance of a full transition from coal to wind and solar power to address climate change. In addition to reducing polluting emissions, wind and solar power also lower the cost of electricity and mitigate the adverse health effects of pollution.

Within the G20 countries, progress in the adoption of wind and solar energy has been mixed. Germany (32%), the UK (29%) and Australia (25%) lead the way in renewable energy deployment. Türkiye, Brazil, the United States and China consistently exceed the world average. At the other end of the spectrum, Russia, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia have a minimal share of wind and solar in their electricity generation mix, close to zero.

As of 2022, 13 G20 countries are still heavily dependent on fossil fuels for half of their electricity generation. Saudi Arabia stands out with almost 100% of its electricity generated from oil and gas sources. South Africa (86%), Indonesia (82%) and India (77%) are the countries most dependent on fossil fuels, particularly coal, for electricity generation, followed by Saudi Arabia.

OECD G20 countries accelerating coal phase-out

The advanced economies of the G20, belonging to the OECD, are expected to phase out the use of coal by 2030. In particular, these advanced economies have witnessed a significant decline of 42% in the production of electricity from coal. In 2015, coal production represented 2,624 terawatts, while in 2022 it dropped to 1,855 terawatts.

Among the G20 countries, the UK has demonstrated the fastest reduction in coal-fired power generation. Since joining the Paris Agreement in 2015, the country has drastically reduced coal-fired electricity by 93%. In 2015, coal accounted for 23% of total UK electricity, but by 2022, it was just 2%. Italy also achieved a 50% reduction in coal-fired power generation during the same period.

Meanwhile, the United States and Germany have each cut it by about a third. Even Australia, a country heavily dependent on coal, has reduced its share of coal-fired electricity from 64% in 2015 to 47% in 2022. However, Japan still lags behind other advanced G20 economies and has not significantly reduced its dependence on coal, with coal-fired electricity comprising about a third of its total generation.

The success of OECD countries in reducing coal-fired power generation is closely related to the increase in wind and solar power generation. The UK and Germany have achieved the largest share of wind power in their electricity generation, reaching 25% and 22% respectively by 2022. Australia and Japan lead in terms of solar share among G20 countries in 2022, with 13% and 10%, respectively.

Despite positive progress in mature economies, a more rapid decline in coal-fired power generation is needed in the coming years.

IPCC: 87% Reduction in Coal Power

According to the IPCC, to limit global warming to 1.5°C, coal-fired power would need to be reduced by 87% in this decade. This would imply decreasing coal-fired electricity from 10,059 terawatts in 2021 to 1,153 terawatts by 2030.

Although the share of coal-fired power in the electricity generated by the G20 countries has decreased since the Paris Agreement, the absolute production of coal-fired electricity has actually increased. This is because countries are turning to coal to meet the growing demand. In 2015, the G20 countries produced 8,565 terawatts of electricity from coal, and by 2022, this production had risen 11% to 9,475 terawatts. Five significant countries are responsible for driving this increase.

G20 countries: Coal emissions peak pending

Since 2015, only five G20 countries have seen an increase in net coal-fired electricity generation. These countries are China (+34%, +1374 TW), India (+35%, +357 TW), Indonesia (+52%, +65 TW), Russia (+31%, +47 TW) and Turkey (+ 50%, +37 TW).

Among these, China and India have managed to reduce the share of coal in their electricity generation by focusing on expanding wind and solar power to meet their growing energy needs. In 2015, coal accounted for 70% of China's total energy production, but by 2022, this share has dropped to 61%.

India, however, has achieved only a modest reduction in the share of coal, with the share falling from 76% in 2015 to 74% in 2022. By contrast, the share of coal-fired electricity in total coal production energy from Indonesia, Russia, and Turkey has increased.

This trend suggests that these countries are approaching peak coal-related polluting emissions as rapid growth in clean energy production outpaces growth in demand. In 2022, China was able to meet 69% of the total increase in electricity demand through solar and wind power.

Renewables lead Asia's energy growth

77% of the growth in energy demand was covered by all renewable energy sources. More than half (52%) of the growth in electricity demand in Asia between 2015 and 2022 was achieved through clean energy, which is double the percentage (26%) achieved in the previous seven years.

“Decarbonization of the energy sector is the single most important step to drive emissions reductions,” said Mavgozata Viatros Moteka, Senior Analyst at Amber. The cheapest and fastest way is to rapidly adopt established technologies like wind and solar power and not bet on incompatible technologies like fossil fuels with carbon capture countries have agreed to decarbonize their energy sectors and further clarified their commitments to accelerate the adoption of solar and offshore energy. This is the biggest obstacle to limiting the increase in warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, so it needs to be at the top of the agenda.

G20 Countries' Clean Energy Rankings

Brazil, the next host of the G20 countries, ranks first in terms of clean energy share among the G20 nations. In 2022, Brazil generated 89% of its total electricity from renewable sources. Among these sources, hydroelectricity represented 63%, while wind energy contributed 12% and solar energy 3%. Only 11% of Brazil's electricity generation came from fossil fuels in 2022, with the majority being derived from gas.

On the other hand, India, the current host of the G20, is significantly behind in decarbonising its electricity system. India ranks as the second most coal-dependent country, after South Africa. However, India has managed to generate 9% of its total electricity from solar and wind power.

Davy Jones, Ember's Head of Data Insights, emphasized that Brazil is far ahead of India in the development of clean energy generation systems.

He suggested that the G20 hosts can learn from each other's successes. India, in particular, has made remarkable progress in becoming the "solar king," with solar power generation increasing 45-fold over the past decade. It is projected to account for 5% of India's total electricity generation by 2022.

Brazil, with a strong foundation in hydropower, has not only continued to expand in that area, but has also made impressive strides in wind power. Over the past decade, Brazil's wind energy production has increased 16-fold, and by 2022, wind energy is expected to contribute 12% of the country's total energy production.

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