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Emissions from electricity may have already peaked as wind and solar take over

13th April 2023

By: Bloomberg

  

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Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions linked to electricity generation may have peaked in 2022 and will begin to decline as wind and solar power take over from fossil fuels.

The pace of the reduction of CO2 emissions’ stemming from the power sector is critical toward limiting global warming and preventing more damage from climate change. According to researchers at climate think-tank Ember, emissions will begin to drop slightly this year, and will get bigger every year as wind and solar grow further.

“It is the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel age,” said Malgorzata Wiatros-Motyka, analyst at Ember.

Despite a surge in construction of wind farms and solar parks, those technologies have so far failed to halt demand to burn fossil fuels. Last year, renewable power sources helped to meet the vast majority of additional power needs, according to the International Energy Agency. But that didn’t stop coal power from reaching a record high in 2022, despite a global commitment to phase out use of the fuel.

Still, last year’s energy crisis helped push energy security to the top of the political agenda. That helped boost the case for countries to harness local, renewable sources of electricity.

This year, wind and solar are set to expand enough that total electricity production from fossil fuels will decline slightly and continue downward through at least 2026, according to the Ember forecasts. Renewable resources may have extra help in 2023 from a lackluster global economy that risks weighing on power demand, as well as a recovery among nuclear and hydro plants that were stymied by droughts and maintenance issues last year.

While any decline in fossil fuel-based electricity is a positive for the fight to prevent climate change, the figures show how far there still is to go to achieve the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C. Even as fossil fuels dip in the coming years, Ember’s analysis shows they will still produce 3% more electricity in 2026 than a decade earlier, in the year the accord was first signed.

Edited by Bloomberg

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