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End of The Fossil Age

Experts are calling time on the fossil age as new analysis shows wind and solar power produced a record amount of the world’s electricity last year.

Lump of coal marked with the words: The End
A new era is beginning | Unsplash

Renewables generated 12 percent of global electricity in 2022, up by 24 percent from the previous year, according to the report from clean energy think tank Ember. “In this decisive decade for the climate, it is the beginning of the end of the fossil age,” says lead author Małgorzata Wiatros-Motyka. “We are entering the clean power era.”

If clean power meets all new demand this year as expected, Ember’s fourth annual Global Electricity Review forecasts a small fall in fossil generation in 2023. So 2023 will be 'peak coal'. The good news is that much larger falls are set to follow, as wind and solar deployment ramps up.

Last year, solar was the fastest-growing source of electricity for the 18th year in a row, while wind generation jumped by 17 percent. Altogether, clean electricity sources (renewables and nuclear) reached 39 percent of global electricity. Hydropower produced 15 percent of this new record, according to Ember’s data.

Despite this progress, coal power remained the single largest source of electricity worldwide, producing 36 percent of all power in 2022. But the feared return to coal during the global gas crisis caused by Mad Vlad's invasion of Ukraine never happened and, at the time, it was even predicted by the UN that the war in Ukraine "may be seen as a blessing" from a climate perspective.

The growth in wind and solar generation met an impressive 80 percent of the rise in global electricity demand last year, helping to keep the fossil fuel in the ground. Coal generation rose by only 1.1 percent, and gas power fell by a very slight 0.2 percent.

“The stage is set for wind and solar to achieve a meteoric rise to the top,” adds Wiatros-Motyka.



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