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According to a new publication from the International Energy Agency, global demand for electricity will grow sharply this year and next, after falling by around 1% in 2020.
The IEA’s electricity market report, released on Thursday, predicts that global electricity demand will grow nearly 5% in 2021 and 4% in 2022 as economies around the world seek to recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The report by the Paris-based organization states that while electricity generation from renewable energies “continues to grow strongly” – it is expected to increase by 8% this year and by over 6% in 2022 – it is not keeping pace with rising demand can.
The IEA said that renewable energy “can only meet about half of the projected growth in global demand in 2021 and 2022”. At the other end of the spectrum, electricity generation based on fossil fuels should “cover 45% in 2022 and 40% in 2022”.
For carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity sector, the IEA report predicts an increase of 3.5% this year and 2.5% in 2022.
Overall, fossil fuels continue to dominate power generation. Last year, coal was responsible for 34% of the world’s electricity generation, while gas was responsible for 25%, the IEA said. Renewable energies and nuclear energy together make up 37%.
“Renewable energies are growing impressively in many parts of the world, but they are still not where they need to be to put us on the path to net-zero emissions by mid-century,” said Keisuke Sadamori, Energy Director the IEA Markets and Security, it said in a statement.
“As the economy recovers from the pandemic, we’ve seen an increase in electricity generation from fossil fuels,” added Sadamori. “In order to achieve a sustainable course, we have to massively increase investments in clean energy technologies – especially in renewable energies and energy efficiency.”
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The shadow of the Paris Agreement, which aims to “limit global warming to well below 2, preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial level”, is emerging over the discussions about net zero targets.
Reducing man-made carbon dioxide emissions to net zero by 2050 is seen as critical to achieving the 1.5 degrees Celsius target.
The COP26 climate summit will take place in the Scottish city of Glasgow this year. It is viewed as a pivotal event that many hope will serve as a catalyst for governments to step up their climate ambitions to meet the goals set in the Paris Agreement.
While there is a sense of urgency at COP26, the reality on the ground shows how great the challenge will be to achieve climate-related goals in the years to come.
For example, energy companies are still discovering new oil fields, while fossil fuels continue to play an important role in electricity production in countries like the USA.
On a global level, the IEA in its latest report expects coal power generation to “increase by nearly 5% in 2021 and a further 3% in 2022, after falling 4.6% in 2020”.
“As a result, electricity generation from coal-fired power plants will surpass pre-pandemic levels in 2021 and hit an all-time high in 2022,” she adds.