Wind and solar set record as fastest growing electricity sources

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Wind and solar energy have been identified as the fastest-growing sources of electricity ever recorded according to a report from the think tank Ember. This unprecedented growth is poised to significantly reduce reliance on fossil fuel generation starting this year, signaling a potential peak in related carbon emissions.

According to Ember’s latest global electricity review, renewable energy sources, particularly wind and solar, have expanded rapidly enough to not only meet but exceed the rising global demand for electricity. In 2023, renewables contributed to a record 30% of global electricity demand, a milestone that might have marked the peak of emissions from the sector if not for a notable decline in hydropower.

The transformative rise of wind and solar energy has curtailed the growth of fossil fuel power significantly. Without the surge in renewable energy, fossil fuel power generation in 2023 would have been 22% higher, which corresponds to an additional four billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

Ember’s analysis underscores the need for an accelerated expansion of renewable energy to achieve the global goal of tripling renewable capacity by 2030. Such growth could slash power sector emissions nearly in half by the end of the decade, aligning with the 1.5°C climate target set in the Paris Agreement.

In 2023 alone, the global energy mix saw a dramatic increase in solar capacity, with more than twice the new electricity generation from solar compared to coal. Solar’s share in the global energy mix rose to 5.5%, up from 4.6% in 2022, while wind energy maintained a steady share of 7.8%, generating 2,304 terawatt-hours.

The speed of growth for these renewables is unparalleled; solar and wind energy reached 1,000 terawatt-hours up to four times faster than other electricity sources like gas, coal, and hydropower. The only other source to have hit this type of growth was nuclear which accomplished similar growth but has since levelled off while wind and solar continue to grow.

Despite this rapid advancement, Ember’s report indicates that the pace of solar and wind capacity growth did not translate into equivalent increases in generation in 2023 due to lower sunlight levels and less windy conditions in key regions. Nonetheless, the expectation is that these are temporary setbacks and that renewable generation rates will bounce back.

The significant investment in renewables is not just a response to environmental concerns but also reflects their increasingly favorable economics as costs continue to decline. This shift is expected to continue propelling the rapid displacement of fossil-fueled electricity, ushering in a new era where clean energy dominates the global landscape, reducing emissions and fostering a sustainable future.

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