Green energy ‘stagnates’ as fossil fuels dominate

Green energy ‘stagnates’ as fossil fuels dominate

wind turbines

wind turbines

A new study says the world is using more fossil fuels than ever before as the transition to green energy stalls.

The 2022 Global Renewables Status Report says that the share of wind and solar energy in the global energy mix has increased minimally over the past decade.

While renewables have grown in the electricity sector over the past year, they have not met the general increase in demand.

In transport, which accounts for a third of energy, renewables provided less than 4%.

The current situation in Ukraine has exacerbated this trend, according to the authors.

REN21 is an international energy policy network made up of industry figures, scientists and some governments.

Its 17th annual status report draws on more than 600 experts to produce a snapshot of what is really happening in terms of renewable energy.

The study says that the transition to renewable energy has essentially stalled. The use of coal, oil and gas continues to dominate total energy consumption.

solar tide

A newly opened solar and tidal power plant in China

“The share of renewable energy in the last decade went from 10.6% to 11.7%, but fossil fuels, all coal and gas went from 80.1% to 79.6%. So it’s stagnant”, said Rana Adib, executive director of REN21.

“And as energy demand is increasing, that really means we’re consuming more fossil fuels than ever before.”

As the world recovered from Covid-19 in 2021, there was a significant increase in overall energy use, most of which was served by fossil fuels.

This has resulted in a huge increase in carbon emissions, which have increased globally by around 2 billion tonnes.

Since then, as supply has struggled to keep up with demand, prices for oil, gas and coal have risen sharply.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has heightened uncertainty and has seen governments racing to find alternative sources.

As energy prices rose for consumers, some countries, including the UK, imposed new taxes on profits made by oil and gas producers.

wind

Large-scale wind turbine installations grew rapidly in 2021

However, many nations have also enacted new subsidies for fossil fuels.

“We are spending globally $11 million per minute on fossil fuel subsidies. In 2020, this represented 7% of global GDP,” said Rana Adib.

“This obviously creates an unbalanced system, because while renewable energy is a cost-effective alternative to fossil fuels, it’s not working in a fair market.”

While renewable energy will reach 10% of global electricity production in 2021, the problems lie in challenging areas such as transportation.

Cars, trucks, ships and planes account for 32% of total final energy consumption, but green energy had a share of only 3.7% last year.

According to Rana Adib, the slow progress highlights the critical importance of policies in moving markets and attitudes.

“The reality is with the ban on the internal combustion engine, there’s a regulatory obligation to move away from that, so we see a trend in electric mobility, which is increasing exponentially, and I think that’s quite encouraging. “

There was also a lack of progress on the political pledges made at COP26, last year’s major international climate conference.

solar

Growing crops in the shade of solar panels is called agrovoltaics

While 135 countries had net zero emissions targets for 2050 in the run-up to the Glasgow meeting, only 84 had economic targets for renewable energy.

But that was before the world-changing events of the past six months.

Rising energy prices mean that governments are now seeking every tool to ease the burden on their citizens.

And that could cause a huge increase in spending on greener sources, as they are not only much cheaper than fossil fuels, but are also more attractive for other reasons.

“The energy transition is our salvation,” said Teresa Ribera, vice president of the Spanish government.

“This will enable innovative business models and forms of organization, transform value chains, redistribute economic power and shape governance in new, more people-centric ways.

“With the right investments in technology, renewables are the only energy sources that offer every country in the world a chance for greater autonomy and energy security.”

Follow Matt on Twitter @mattmcgrathbbc.

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