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These four charts show that the world has reached an important milestone in clean energy

These four charts show that the world has reached an important milestone in clean energy

(CNN) — The world has passed a clean energy milestone: The rise of wind and solar power led to a record 30% of the world’s electricity being produced by renewable energy last year, according to new data.

The planet is reaching a “critical tipping point” towards clean energy According to the Global Electricity Review report Published on Wednesday by climate research center EMBER. The group expects global generation from fossil fuels to decline slightly in 2024, before seeing much larger declines in subsequent years.

This is an important step for the world Reaching 60% renewable electricity by 2030Which is critical to achieving global climate goals, according to Dave Jones, director of global insights at Ember.

“The future of renewable energy has arrived,” says Jones. “Solar energy, in particular, is accelerating faster than anyone thought possible.”

A look at the data reveals the extent to which the global energy sector has changed.

Renewable Energy Register

In 2000, renewable energy represented less than 19% of the world’s energy sources combined. Now they represent more than 30%. If we take nuclear energy into account, the world succeeded in generating nearly 40% of its electricity needs from low-carbon sources last year.

Although global levels of pollution from global warming reach an all-time high in 2023, the emergence of renewable energy sources has caused the energy sector’s carbon intensity – the amount of carbon pollution produced per unit of electricity – to reach a record low in In 2023, that is 12%. Below its peak in 2007.

According to the report, the rise of renewable energy is also pushing fossil fuels into decline, slowing their growth by about two-thirds over the past decade. In more than half of the countries, electricity generated from fossil fuels already peaked five years ago.

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The share of fossil fuels in total electricity fell from 64.7% in 2000 to 60.6% in 2023. Imber expects this number to decline significantly in 2024, to 57.6%, when the rapid rise of solar energy begins to be observed.

“We’re going to see this renewed boom, which is going to change the landscape very quickly,” Jones told CNN.

Solar energy boom

Solar energy was the fastest-growing source of electricity in 2023 for the nineteenth year in a row, according to the report. Last year, it produced nearly twice as much electricity as coal.

The surge in solar installations occurred toward the end of 2023, so the full impact has not yet been felt, Jones said. “I think 2024 will bring some shock when these numbers start to come in,” he said, especially among those who assume demand for fossil fuels like gas will continue to increase.

Although coal and gas still make up the majority of global electricity generation, their growth rate last year was much slower than that of wind and solar energy.

“The speed of expansion of solar and wind energy is striking and a sign that society can make rapid changes,” said Niklas Hoehne, a climate scientist at the nonprofit NewClimate Institute, who was not involved in Ember’s research.

According to the report, the growth of renewable energy could have been greater had it not been for the significant decline in hydropower production due to drought in countries such as China and India. Most of the deficit was covered by coal.

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China is in the lead

China is by far A pioneer in the field of solar energyapproximately 36% of the world’s generation last year.

However, the role that solar plays in China’s domestic electricity production is quite different: only 6%, which is much lower than many other solar-producing countries.

According to the report, solar energy represents more than 10% of annual electricity generation in 33 countries, including Chile (30%), Australia (17%), and the Netherlands (17%). California, the world’s fifth-largest economy, generates 28% of its electricity from solar energy.

The demand for electricity is expected to increase

Global electricity demand will rise to a record high in 2023 — adding the equivalent of all of Canada’s electricity demand — but the pace of growth has slowed compared to the average over the past decade.

China was the main driver of demand, while the United States and the European Union saw sharp declines due to the milder climate and, especially in the case of the European Union, due to a temporary decline in industrial activity.

Electricity demand will rise significantly starting in 2024, according to Ember’s analysis. Electric cars, heat pumps, and electrolysis – the process used to produce green hydrogen, the much-publicized clean energy – will drive demand, along with technologies such as air conditioning and artificial intelligence.

According to the report, the spread of these technologies will increase electricity demand growth, but overall demand will decline as electricity becomes more efficient than fossil fuels.

Overall, Ember’s report is “encouraging,” says Nancy Hagel, a research consultant at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, who was not involved in the analysis. “It shows that we can generate significant amounts of electricity using renewable energy.”

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The question is whether the pace of transformation will be fast enough, he told CNN. “Decisions in the next 10 years are key.”