Jan 14, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Power demand surge thwarts climate goals

Global change in electricity demand
Reproduced from International Energy Agency; Chart: Axios Visuals

Global electricity demand surged by record levels in 2021, causing price spikes and emissions growth, the International Energy Agency said.

Driving the news: New IEA data out Friday shows that power demand grew by over 1,500 terawatt-hours, the highest absolute amount ever.

  • The 6% rise amid the rebound from the pandemic, and demand boosted by extreme weather, was the highest on a percentage basis since the 2010 recovery from the financial crisis.
  • In many places, consumers and energy-using industries felt economic pain. IEA's wholesale power market price index for major economies was a whopping 64% higher than the 2016-2020 average.
  • While renewables climbed sharply, power generation from coal and gas reached record levels, and so did the sector's emissions.

What's next: IEA sees moderating demand growth over the next three years, with fossil generation leveling off and renewables meeting almost all the increasing needs.

  • They see emissions leveling off through 2024 too, but steep declines needed under their roadmap for net-zero emissions by 2050 are nowhere in sight.
  • Higher investment is needed in efficiency, renewables, nuclear power, smart grids and other clean tech, IEA said.
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