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Five of the world’s 10 largest economies now get over 50% of their power from clean sources

A wind farm delivering renewable energy
Photo: Mikel Martinez De Osaba/Dreamstime

Five of the world’s 10 largest economies now get more than half of their annual electricity needs from low-carbon sources.

Germany, the planet’s third-largest economy according to IMF data, got 52% of its electricity from renewables in 2023 — a five percentage point increase from the year before, according to energy industry association BDEW.

Onshore wind made up 22.3% of the mix and solar PV 12.2%. Biomass, offshore wind, and hydro accounted for the remainder of the renewables output.

The country, which shut its last nuclear plants in April 2023, aims to get to 80% renewable electricity by 2030.

California, which ranks as the fifth-largest economy on a standalone basis, sourced 50.9% of its power from renewables in the 12 months to end-September, according to Energy Information Administration (EIA) data collated by Stanford University Professor Mark Z. Jacobson.

The state is among the world leaders in the adoption of solar energy. Grid-scale solar PV and concentrated solar plants covered 16.6% of the state’s electricity needs over the 12-month period, and rooftop solar another 11.3%, per Jacobson’s analysis.

Including nuclear, approximately 60% of California’s power now comes from low-carbon sources. Lawmakers recently codified the state’s goal of getting to 90% clean electricity by 2035.

The UK, which ranks seventh on economic output, got 56% of its electricity from low-carbon technologies in 2023. Renewables made up 43% of the mix and nuclear 13%.

The government plans to fully decarbonise the power system by 2035.

In France, the world’s eighth-largest economy, 93.5% of power output came from low-carbon sources last year. Nuclear comprised 67.3% of the mix, and renewables — led by wind — accounted for 26.2% of production, according to data collated by German institute Fraunhofer ISE.

France also plans to decarbonise its grid by 2035.

Brazil, ranked 10th on gross domestic product, completes the list, with renewables and nuclear comprising close to 90% of the mix, according to Ember data. Hydropower accounts for more than half of annual output, although the share of wind and solar is steadily increasing.

Yes, but: The world still has a long way to go to decarbonise its electricity systems, and much quicker progress is required to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. Moreover, power production is only one part of the overall energy mix.

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