For the first time, the combined global wind and solar power projects meet more than one-tenth of global electricity demand in 2021, according to Bloomberg. Meanwhile, overall electricity demand, productions and emissions from coal-fired power plants all spike in 2021 as the global economy recovers after the Covid-19 pandemic.
A new peak in coal generation is a troubling sign for the response to climate change. According to the annual Power Transition Trends report, wind and solar power generate close to 3,000 TWh in 2021, accounting for 10.5 percent of global electricity generation. Wind’s contribution to the global total rises to 6.8 percent, while solar climbs to 3.7 percent. Ten years ago, the two combined accounted for less than 1 percent of total electricity generation.
Solar continues to expand at a particularly fierce pace in 2021, both in terms of new capacity additions and new markets. Solar is responsible for half of global capacity additions, at 182 GW. For the first time, it contributes more than 1,000 TWh to the global grid. At least 112 of all countries that BNEF tracks as adding capacity have installed at least 1 MW of installed solar capacity. Solar power plants and home solar are growing rapidly, which has caused the growth of the solar power accessories such as solar cables (accesorios para solar) market.
Zero Carbon Power Generation
39% of all electricity produced globally in 2021 is carbon-free. Hydropower and nuclear projects meet more than a quarter of the world’s electricity demand. And wind and solar power have accounted for the majority of new generation on the global grid every year since 2017. Including hydropower and nuclear, zero-carbon generation accounts for 85% of new installed capacity in 2021.
Challenges for the Electricity Industry
Despite incredible progress in renewable energy, there is still enormous work to be done in the power system in the face of combating climate change. As the global economy recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic, electricity demand is up 5.6% year-over-year. This puts new pressure on existing infrastructure and the fossil fuel supply chain.
Lower-than-expected production from hydro plants and higher natural gas prices have also brought coal-fired generation back into the spotlight in more markets. From 2020 to 2021, coal-fired power plants produce a record 8.5 percent increase to 9,600 TWh.
At the same time, many countries continue to complete construction of new coal-fired power plants in 2021. Coal still accounts for the largest share of global capacity at 27%. However, the pace of new coal grid connection is slowing. only 13 GW of new coal-fired generation capacity will be completed in 2021, down from 31 GW in 2020 and 83 GW in 2012.