Mar 29, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Wind and solar power aren’t displacing coal nearly fast enough

Data: Ember Global Electricity Review; Chart: Axios Visuals. Note: Indonesia, Russia and Saudi Arabia have "near-zero" wind and solar, the report states

New analysis shows how wind and solar growth are helping to displace coal-fired generation, but not nearly enough to slash overall emissions from electricity at a time of generally rising global demand.

Driving the news: Last year, a 15% rise in wind and solar generation combined with the pandemic briefly halting power demand growth led to a record drop in coal-fired output, the environmental think tank Ember said.

The big picture: Those renewables combined supplied nearly a 10th of total global electricity last year, around twice the share just five years earlier.

  • Several countries have seen significant increases over the last half-decade, many of which you can see above.
  • Wind and solar together supplied 33% of Germany's power last year and 29% in the UK.

Yes, but: Coal generation rose in China last year, and more broadly the report points out that global coal demand is projected to rebound this year.

And even last year, despite renewables growth and the pandemic, total power sector emissions were 2% higher than in 2015.

  • "Progress is nowhere near fast enough," said Dave Jones, Ember's lead power analyst.
  • "Coal power needs to collapse by 80% by 2030 to avoid dangerous levels of warming above 1.5 degrees [Celsius]," he said.

Go deeper: China generated over half world's coal-fired power in 2020 (Reuters)

Go deeper