‘Wind and Solar Are Proving Themselves’: Renewables Met Rise in Electricity Demand During First Half of 2022
The energy crisis has some companies and politicians calling for an increase in fossil fuel exploration, but new data shows that this solution is unnecessary as well as detrimental to avoiding the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
All of the increased electricity demand during the first half of 2022 was met by renewable energy, data released Wednesday from the energy think tank Ember has shown.
“Wind and solar are proving themselves during the energy crisis,” Ember Senior Electricity Analyst Malgorzata Wiatros-Motyka wrote in the report. “The first step to ending the grip of expensive and polluting fossil fuels is to build enough clean power to meet the world’s growing appetite for electricity.”
The findings came as part of Ember’s “Global Electricity Mid-Year Insights” for 2022. During the first six months of the year, electricity demand increased by 389 terawatt hours, or three percent compared to the first six months of 2021. This coincided with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, which helped precipitate a global energy crisis.
However, during this same time period, renewable energy generation increased by 416 terawatt hours. This means renewable sources actually met 107 percent of demand, The Independent reported. Seventy-seven percent of the increased demand was met by new wind and solar, with hydropower filling in the gap, according to the report. This isn’t just a good sign for the future. It meant that fossil fuels weren’t being burned instead.
“The growth in wind and solar in the first half of 2022 prevented a 4% increase in fossil generation,” Wiatros-Motyka wrote in the report. “This avoided $40 billion USD in fuel costs and 230 Mt CO2 in emissions.”
On a country-by-country basis, new wind and solar met 92 percent of electricity demand in China, 81 percent in the U.S. and 23 percent in India. The analysis was based on data from 75 nations that account for 90 percent of electricity demand worldwide.
So does this mean that we are finally approaching peak fossil-fuel demand? Renewable sources met electricity demand in 2015 and 2019, but these were both years of less than average growth in electricity demand, while the first six months of 2022 saw average growth.
“We are closer to the tipping point where renewables are able to meet that increase in global electricity demand as the world moves towards being more electrified,” Ember global program lead Dave Jones told AFP.
However, we’re not there yet, as evidenced by the fact that coal and gas use both increased in July and August when a drought and heat wave in China caused a hydropower shortfall there, the report said. Because of this, 2022 could once again be a record-breaking year for fossil-fuel generation and carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector despite its promising start.
“Global power sector emissions are still pushing all-time highs when they need to be falling very quickly,” Wiatros-Motyka said in the report. “And the same fossil fuels pushing us into a climate crisis are also causing the global energy crisis. We have a solution: wind and solar are homegrown and cheap, and are already cutting both bills and emissions fast.”
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