Wind and solar hit record levels of power generation in 2022. What you need to know about the global energy transition this week

Overall, the growth in wind and solar in 2022 met 80% of the rise in global electricity demand.
Overall, the growth in wind and solar in 2022 met 80% of the rise in global electricity demand.
Image: REUTERS/Thomas Peter
  • This weekly round-up brings you the latest developments in the global energy sector.
  • Top energy news: Wind and solar hit record level of power generation in 2022; US proposes sweeping cuts to vehicle emissions; Germany to switch off its remaining nuclear reactors.
  • For more on the World Economic Forum’s work in the energy space, visit the Centre for Energy and Materials.

1. Wind and solar slow rise of power sector emissions

Wind and solar energy represented a record 12% of global electricity generation last year, up from 10% in 2021. A report by the energy think tank Ember says 2022 could have marked peak emissions from the power sector, which is the largest source of planet-warming carbon dioxide.

Ember studied power sector data from 78 countries representing 93% of global power demand. It concluded that all renewable energy sources and nuclear power combined represented a 39% share of global generation last year, with solar's share rising by 24% and wind by 17% from the previous year. Overall the growth in wind and solar in 2022 met 80% of the rise in global electricity demand.

Wind and solar are slowing the rise of power sector emissions
Wind and solar are slowing the rise of power sector emissions.
Image: Ember

Despite a global gas crisis and some countries firing back up coal-fired power stations to meet demand, coal generation grew by 1.1%, while gas-fired power generation declined by 0.2% as high prices made it more expensive to use the fuel. If all electricity from wind and solar generation had instead come from fossil fuels, power sector emissions would have been 20% higher in 2022, Ember says.

As the global power sector is the leading source of CO2 emissions, the International Energy Agency says it needs to become the first sector to reach net zero emissions by 2040. This would mean wind and solar would have to reach 41% of global electricity generation by 2030.

2. US to boost EV sales and cut emissions

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed sweeping emissions cuts for new cars and trucks through to 2032. It says this could result in two out of every three new vehicles automakers sell being electric within a decade.

The proposal would represent the most aggressive US vehicle emissions reduction plan to date, requiring 13% annual average pollution cuts and a 56% reduction in projected fleet average emissions over 2026 requirements. The EPA is also proposing new stricter emissions standards for medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks through 2032.

The EPA projects the 2027-2032 model year rules would cut more than 9 billion tons (8 billion tonnes) of CO2 emissions through to 2055. This would be equivalent to more than twice the total US CO2 emissions last year.

The proposal is more ambitious than President Joe Biden's 2021 goal, which seeks 50% of new vehicles to be electric vehicles (EVs) or plug-in hybrids by 2030. The United Auto Workers union, which has warned previously about job losses from the shift to EVs, says it will review the EPA's proposal.

3. News in brief: More energy stories from around the world

Output cuts announced by OPEC+ producers risk exacerbating an oil supply deficit expected in the second half of the year and could hurt consumers and global economic recovery, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says. OPEC+ called its surprise cut decision a "precautionary measure" citing downside risks to summer oil demand from high stock levels and economic challenges.

The US power grid will almost double in capacity from 2022 to 2050 to meet rising demand, and most newly built capacity will be from renewable sources. Declining capital costs for solar panels, wind turbines and battery storage, as well as government subsidies, will make renewables a cost-effective option for building new power capacity, the U.S. Energy Information Administration says.

The World Bank says it will provide $200 million to help repair Ukraine's energy and heating infrastructure, with $300 million more available. The country’s energy network has suffered an estimated $11 billion in damage over the last year.

Japan is to revise its hydrogen strategy by the end of May, with an ambitious target to boost annual supply to 12 million tonnes by 2040. Citing massive hydrogen investment by the United States and Europe, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida says Japan will speed up the rollout of supply chains in cooperation with Australia, the Middle East and other Asian countries.

China plans to accelerate the approval of new coal mines, and fast-track the construction of already approved ones, to support its baseload energy supply. The country's energy consumption typically spikes in the summer months due to household demand for air conditioning.

Germany is shutting down its last remaining nuclear reactors, following a decision to phase out the power source two decades ago, reports Sky News. It comes as many other countries around the world are looking to increase nuclear power to help meet emissions targets and provide greater energy security.

China's Sinopec says it will build a pipeline to transfer hydrogen from renewable energy projects in the northwestern Inner Mongolia region to cities in its east. While the country already operates pipelines for so-called "grey hydrogen" produced from fossil fuel sources, the project would be the country's first "West to East" green hydrogen transmission line.

Morocco's state-owned phosphates and fertilizer producer OCP says it has signed an agreement with the World Bank for a 100 million euro ($110 million) loan to build four solar plants to power its industrial operations. The loan is part of a $12.8 billion OCP investment plan to increase fertilizer production using renewable energy by 2027.

The US government faces a lawsuit over its alleged failure to utilize renewable energy sources in rebuilding Puerto Rico’s power grid. Advocacy groups say this will make the US territory less resilient to storms and more likely to experience widespread power outages by restoring its older fossil fuel-powered systems without assessing potential environmental impacts.

4. More on energy from Agenda

We are approaching “the beginning of the end of the fossil age”, according to the fourth annual Global Electricity Review from energy think tank Ember. These charts show how renewables will replace fossil fuels, and which regions are leading the way in decarbonization.

Government spending on clean energy globally has risen by $500 billion since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to the IEA. However, most spending has been in advanced economies with developing ones focusing more on consumer affordability measures.

Fossil fuels still make up more than 80% of the world’s energy mix. Here's everything you need to know about them.

To learn more about the work of the Centre for Energy and Materials, contact Ella Yutong Lin:

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