Wind and solar reached a record 12% share of global electricity generation last year, up from 10% in 2021, according to the latest Global Electricity Review released Wednesday by independent energy think-tank Ember.
The growing electricity generation from wind and solar is forecast to push the world into a new era of falling fossil generation and power sector emissions from 2023, the fourth annual report found.
“In this decisive decade for the climate, it is the beginning of the end of the fossil age,” said Małgorzata Wiatros-Motyka, report author and Ember’s electricity analyst. “We are entering the clean power era.”
The report presents electricity data from 2022 in 78 countries, representing 93% of global electricity demand.
The share of wind in global electricity generation reached 7.6% in 2022, up from 6.6% in the previous year. Electricity generation from wind rose by 17% year-on-year, enough to power almost all of the UK.
Solar’s share was 4.5% in the world’s power output last year, up from 3.7% in 2021.
Solar became the fastest-growing source of electricity for the 18th year in a row, growing by 24% year-on-year and adding enough electricity to power all of South Africa.
The growth in solar power’s share across the world was driven by the rise in China, accounting for 37% of the global increase, while the growth in US solar generation accounted for 17% of the global rise.
Over 60 countries now generate more than 10% of their electricity from wind and solar, the data reveals.
The rise in electricity generation from wind and solar last year met 80% of the increase in global electricity demand, which reached 2.5% compared to the previous year.
Countries with highest shares of wind and solar in electricity generation
China generated the most electricity from solar last year with 418 terawatt-hours, or 4.7% of its electricity from solar.
Chile had the largest share of solar in its electricity output with 17% last year, while the Netherlands followed with 15% and a 13% solar share in their electricity mix.
China was also the biggest generator of wind power in the world, with a 9.3% wind share in its electricity mix, while Denmark had the largest wind generation by percentage share at 55% in 2022.
The share of wind and solar in the European Union stood at 22% last year.
Türkiye’s electricity generation from wind and solar remained above the global average at about 15.5%.
Coal still largest electricity source with 36%
All clean electricity sources combined generated 39% of global electricity, reaching a new record high. Hydro generated 15% of global electricity as the largest clean energy source and was followed by nuclear with 9% as the second largest source.
Despite the record generation from clean sources, fossil fuels still accounted for 61% of global electricity output. Coal power remained the single largest source of electricity worldwide, generating 36% of global electricity in 2022.
The report found the rise in wind and solar generation limited the increase in coal generation at 1.1%.
The share of gas in global electricity generation fell slightly by 0.2% last year, accounting for 22%.
Last year may be peak of power sector emissions
As the share of coal and gas was still high in global electricity generation, power sector emissions increased by 1.3% last year, reaching an all-time high. Despite the record generation from clean sources last year, the rise in power sector emissions was driven by increased electricity demand.
If all the electricity from wind and solar instead came from fossil generation, emissions from the power sector would have been 20% higher last year, Ember calculated.
However, 2022 may be the “peak” of electricity emissions and the final year of fossil power growth, with clean power meeting all demand growth this year, the report forecasts.
There would be a fall of 0.3% in fossil generation this year, with larger drops in subsequent years as wind and solar deployment accelerates.
“The stage is set for wind and solar to achieve a meteoric rise to the top. Clean electricity will reshape the global economy, from transport to industry and beyond. A new era of falling fossil emissions means the coal power phasedown will happen and the end of gas power is now within sight,” Wiatros-Motyka said.
“Change is coming fast. However, it all depends on the actions taken now by governments, businesses and citizens to put the world on a pathway to clean power by 2040.”
Electricity generation is the single biggest contributor to global CO2 emissions, responsible for about 40% of the world’s total energy related emissions in 2021. Coal accounted for 75% of the power sector emissions in 2021, while gas accounted for almost 25% of it.
Thus, the global electricity sector is the first sector that needs to be decarbonized to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and it requires much faster deployment of clean sources.
“The cumulative global solar PV capacity has reached about 942 gigawatts in the last decade, while the global wind capacity reached 853 gigawatts. Countries like China, the US, India and Japan have made some of the largest contributions to the global solar PV capacity,” Ajay Mathur, director general of the International Solar Alliance, said on the report.
He noted that the cost for solar and wind has declined drastically by 82% and 34% respectively while the cost of coal-fired energy remained at similar levels and that of nuclear increased by 61%.
“The global renewable share is increasing, but to achieve net zero by 2030, the renewable generation must cater to at least 60% of the total generation from renewables,” Mathur said, stressing that the way forward lies in pacing up renewable energy and making renewable energy technology a global public good.