Almost all of the world’s new electricity supply in the coming years will come from renewables and nuclear power, displacing fossil fuels and reducing climate pollution from electricity, according to a new analysis by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
“We are close to a tipping point”
Carbon pollution-free energy sources are expected to meet more than 90 percent of new electricity demand worldwide by 2025. Most of that will come from renewable energy sources, including solar, wind and hydropower. Nuclear power is also experiencing a modest resurgence, reinforcing the agency’s bullishness on carbon-free energy.
Those gains should ease fossil fuels’ hold on electricity generation. After peaking in 2022, the energy sector’s carbon dioxide emissions could finally begin to decrease or decline. “We are close to a tipping point for energy sector emissions,” IEA director Fatih Birol said in a press release today.
The IEA expects renewable energy to account for 35 percent of the world’s electricity generation by 2025. That would give it a narrow victory over coal, which is expected to fall to 33 percent of electricity generation over the same period. Nuclear power is slowly growing and generates about 10 percent of the world’s energy supply, while gas sustains about 20 percent.
As nearly every country on Earth tries to meet the clean energy goals set in the Paris Agreement, the global electricity mix is shifting. To limit global warming to the targets of that agreement, greenhouse gas emissions must fall to net zero by 2050. It also helps that solar and wind power have become remarkably affordable and are the cheapest ways to generate electricity in much of the world. .
Yet climate change is already causing major damage to our energy infrastructure through more extreme weather. Wind, solar and hydro power generation ebb and flow with the seasons. But especially hydropower was hit hard last year by drought in the US, Europe and China. Drought also limited nuclear power in France, as some factories use river water to cool reactors.
Bad weather increases the demand for electricity to keep houses at a bearable temperature. It’s a recipe for disaster when those demand spikes coincide with supply shortages during extreme heat and cold spells. At worst, that leads to power outages, depriving people of heating and air conditioning when they need it most.
This predicament shows that the supply and demand of electricity is increasingly dependent on the weather, the IEA says in its report. It puts a lot of pressure on electricity grids to quickly become cleaner and more resilient.