The world’s insatiable appetite for electricity is creating a climate catastrophe

A report released Friday by the International Energy Agency found global electricity demand jumped 6% in 2021, fueled by a colder winter and the dramatic economic rebound from the pandemic. This pushed prices and carbon emissions to new highs.
Demand growth was particularly strong in China, where it jumped around 10%.

IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said the report contained a stern warning for the future.

Electricity has a crucial role to play in the fight against climate change as countries move away from fossil fuels and more battery power cars take to the road. But so far, renewable sources of electricity — as opposed to power plants that burn coal or natural gas — haven’t kept up.

Electricity generated by renewables rose 6% globally last year, while coal-fired generation jumped 9% due to strong demand and soaring natural gas prices, made it a more attractive option.

Carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation increased by 7%, reaching a record level after decreasing in the previous two years.

“Not only does this highlight how far we are currently off the path to net-zero emissions by 2050, it also highlights the massive changes needed for the electricity sector to fulfill its critical role in decarbonisation. of the broader energy system,” Birol said. in a report.

In the United States, coal-fired power generation increased by 19% in 2021. The increase, however, is expected to be temporary, with coal generation expected to decline by around 6% per year between 2022 and 2024, according to the IEA. .

There is good news: the rapid expansion of renewable energy capacity should be enough to cover the vast majority of the growth in global electricity demand until 2024.

Nevertheless, emissions will remain high.

The IEA has found that emissions from the electricity sector “will remain at about the same level from 2021 to 2024”, although they must drop “sharply” for the world to limit global warming to 1.5 ° C. and avoid the worst effects of climate change. .

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