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The world now gets more than 30% of its electricity from renewables

An aerial view of a wind farm producing renewable energy
Photo: Dreamstime

The ongoing surge in wind and solar installations pushed the world past 30% renewable electricity for the first time in 2023, according to a new report by energy think tank Ember, which shows the carbon intensity of power generation hit fresh lows last year.

The report finds that despite a steady increase in electricity demand, the brisk renewables build out means that fossil generation will likely start to decline from 2024. This historic shift would’ve begun in 2023 were it not for a slump in global hydropower generation due to droughts in China and elsewhere.

“The decline of power sector emissions is now inevitable,” said Dave Jones, Ember’s director of global insights. “2023 was likely the pivot point – peak emissions in the power sector – a major turning point in the history of energy. But the pace of emissions falls depends on how fast the renewables revolution continues.”

Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said: “The fossil fuel era has reached its necessary and inevitable expiration date as these findings show so clearly.

“This is a critical turning point: Last century’s outdated technologies can no longer compete with the exponential innovations and declining cost curves in renewable energy and storage. All of humanity and the planet upon which we depend will be better off for it.”

At the COP28 climate change conference in December 2023, countries agreed to triple global renewables capacity by 2030, implying that the world will reach 60% renewable electricity by the end of the decade. But much needs to be done to make this a reality.

The Ember report shows how key enablers – in particular, high-level policy ambition, incentive mechanisms, and flexibility solutions – are driving rapid growth in solar and wind, particularly in the likes of China, Brazil and the Netherlands.

“Long-term planning, combined with urgent actions on financing, permitting, grids and supply chains will deliver access to secure, clean and affordable energy and green jobs for millions of people,” said Bruce Douglas, CEO of the Global Renewables Alliance.

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