Renewables failing to keep pace with demand: IEA

Photo: AP Transitioning from fossil fuels: the IEA has forecast investment in clean technology will need to more than triple by 2030 if the world is reach its climate goals.

The planet’s demand for electricity is set for a strong rebound this year and next after dropping by approximately 1% in 2020, according to a new publication from the International Energy Agency.

Released Thursday, the IEA’s Electricity Market Report forecasts that global electricity demand will jump by nearly 5% in 2021 and 4% in 2022 as economies around the world look to recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Paris-based organization’s report notes that although electricity generation from renewables “continues to grow strongly” - it’s set to rise by 8% this year and over 6% in 2022 - it can’t keep up with increasing demand.

The IEA said renewables were “expected to be able to serve only around 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 was “set to cover 45% of additional demand in 2021 and 40% in 2022.”

When it comes to carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity sector, the IEA’s report forecasts a rise of 3.5% this year and 2.5% in 2022.

Looking at the overall picture, fossil fuels remain dominant when it comes to electricity generation. Last year, coal was responsible for 34% of generation worldwide, while gas accounted for 25%, the IEA said. Renewables and nuclear combined to take a 37% share.

“Renewable power is growing impressively in many parts of the world, but it still isn’t where it needs to be to put us on a path to reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century,” Keisuke Sadamori, the IEA’s director of energy markets and security, said in a statement. “As the economy rebounds after the pandemic, we’ve seen a surge in electrical generation from fossil fuels,” Sadamori added. “To shift to a sustainable trajectory, we need to massively step up investment in clean energy technologies - especially renewables and energy efficiency.”

The IEA explained gas growth lagged behind coal because it plays a smaller role in the Asia Pacific region and it faces competition from renewables in Europe and North America. The anticipated rise in coal-fired electricity generation is also at odds with the IEA’s recent Roadmap to Net Zero by 2050, which claimed coal-fired electricity generation would need to fall by more than 6% per year between 2020 and 2025 to be on the pathway towards net zero by 2050.

“As a result, coal-fired electricity generation is set to exceed pre-pandemic levels in 2021 and reach an all-time high in 2022,” it adds.

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