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Renewables Keep Pace With Rise in Electricity Demand

Author: Samuel Beckingham
Updated: Oct 14, 2022
5 minutes read

A new report from the London-based think tank, Ember, has revealed that renewables have saved 230 million tonnes of CO₂ so far in 2022. Despite a rise in demand of 3% from last year, equating to around 389 terawatt hours, renewables have managed to keep pace.

The first half of the year has been promising for renewable energy. Ember estimated an increase in solar, wind and hydroelectric power prevented a possible 4% rise in fossil fuel energy generation, which equates to around 230 million tonnes of CO₂. This is the equivalent of taking more than 49 million petrol cars off the road for a whole year. The UK alone has an estimated 32.9 million cars on the road as of March 2022.

The data Ember used comes from 75 countries that make up 90% of the world’s electricity demand. This was compared to the first half of 2021. The report noted that wind and solar met 77% of the increased demand and hydroelectric power accounted for even more than the remaining 23%. This increase prevented our need to rely on more fossil fuel generated energy.

Contrary to what fossil-fuel devotee Jacob Rees-Mogg believes, senior electricity analyst at Ember, Malgorzata Wiatros-Motyka, has stated that these renewable systems are proving themselves throughout the energy crisis. “We have a solution,” she says. “Wind and solar are homegrown and cheap, and are already cutting both bills and emissions fast.”

She stressed the importance of needing to build enough clean power to meet the world’s growing hunger for electricity. Worryingly, emissions from coal and gas are increasing when we should start to be less reliant on them. The droughts that affected Europe in the summer, though, were directly linked with a rise in the use of coal. Less water availability meant hydroelectric and nuclear power generation fell sharply, down by 12% from 2021 because of closures and outages in France and Germany.

Ember believes that the droughts mean hydroelectricity is unlikely to expand any further, but will remain a source of Europe’s clean energy. In 2021, 12% of Europe’s electricity was generated by hydroelectricity, but this could potentially increase. Solar complements hydroelectricity fairly well, especially in drier years, and floating solar panels can be placed on top of dams to reduce evaporation, meaning they can pick up any shortfall.

Wind and solar met almost half of the shortfall from the droughts while coal filled the remainder, but the use of coal is steadily declining. In 2015, coal use made up 25% of the EU’s electricity production. In the first six months of 2022, this was at 16%.

The good news is that renewables are slowly catching up with demand. Greece even met all of its power generation through renewables for at least five hours on the first Friday in October. They managed to generate a record 3,106 megawatt hours of electricity through renewables.

Now that COP27 is round the corner, it’s imperative that governments take the energy crisis seriously so we can get on track to decarbonising the planet. Our own government especially needs to take a long, hard look at itself. From the Prime Minister stopping King Charles from making a speech at COP27 to Rees-Mogg hell-bent on extracting natural gas, and not least because of the lift on the ban on fracking, we have plenty of work on our hands, and the people they supposedly represent want clean energy now more than ever.