Despite experts saying that the world’s renewable energy capacity is not growing fast enough to support government pledges for a green transition by 2050, several clean energy production records were broken in 2022. A huge amount of wind and solar power came online around the globe last year, and several advances were made across a variety of different renewable energy sources. Energy firms across North America, Europe, and Asia established plans to develop major green hydrogen facilities, hydropower plants, and new tidal and wave operations; as well as to boost the connectivity across different regions to fulfill energy-sharing objectives. While there is still a long way to go if governments want to realize their pledges to reduce global emissions, greater investment in renewable energy over the last year from public and private players is likely to help accelerate the green transition over the coming decades.
Wind power continues to be one of the fastest-growing renewable energy sectors. In the U.K., the National Grid ESO stated that a record level of wind energy was produced in the last week of 2022, with 20.918GW of electricity produced in the half-hour period between 6:00 pm and 6.30 pm on 30 December 2022. This means that wind energy contributed 61.4 percent of the U.K.’s energy supply that day. The previous record was set with an output of 20.896GW on 2nd November 2022.
The CEO of trade body RenewableUK, Dan McGrail, stated of the achievement: “The fact that the UK's onshore and offshore wind farms keep setting new electricity generation records shows just how important this technology has become in our modern energy system.” He added, “Wind is now the UK's cheapest source of new power, so every unit of electricity we generate from it helps consumers by reducing ultra-expensive gas imports.”
The U.K. has some of the best conditions in Europe for wind power generation, with 74 terawatt hours (TWh) of wind energy generation achieved by late December 2022, producing enough energy to power 19 million homes. In August last year, the U.K. reached 25.5 GW of wind power capacity, an increase of 10.5 GW from 2017. This comes from both onshore and offshore wind farms. And the new 1.1-gigawatt Seagreen project from SSE Plc and TotalEnergies SE is expected to come online next summer. Overall, the U.K.’s pipeline for wind projects, both in operation and development, totals 129 GW, of which 93.3 GW are offshore.
In Germany, a new renewable energy production record was set last year, with the country producing 256 TWh of electricity from renewable sources in 2022. Better weather conditions allowed the output of solar power to increase by 23 percent compared to 2021. Renewables contributed to 46 percent of Germany’s power consumption in 2022, an increase from 41 percent the previous year. However, experts suggest that Germany must bring significantly more renewable energy projects online to meet its climate aims. To achieve its target of 600 TWh of renewable energy capacity by 2030 – equating to 80 percent of its power consumption – the 2022 green energy output should have totaled around 270 TWh.
In 2022, China was on track to break both fossil fuel and renewable energy production records, with significant government investments in the development of its green energy sector. Solar power for electricity generation increased by 30 percent between January and October, compared to the same period in 2021. And the contribution of wind power for electricity increased by 25 percent. And China continues to be the largest renewable energy producer in the world.
Overall, the global electricity demand increased by 3 percent in the first half of 2022, compared to the previous year. Renewable energy operations were able to meet the entirety of this demand rise, with wind and solar providing 77 percent and hydrogen the rest. In China, the rise in wind and solar generation provided 92 percent of its electricity demand rise; in the U.S. it met 81 percent, and in India, it was 23 percent.
As well as putting many countries on track to meet renewable energy and climate pledges in the coming decades, the increase in the global green energy capacity has had a more immediate effect in Europe. As Europe faced gas shortages and sharply rising energy prices, several countries turned to renewable energy to meet demand. Between May and August last year, the EU generated 12 percent of its electricity from solar power sources, an increase of 9 percent from 2021. This is equivalent to €29 billion in gas imports saved thanks to solar power projects. Meanwhile, wind contributed around 12 percent of Europe’s generated power while hydro provided 11 percent.
While there is still a long way to go to achieve the ambitious Paris Agreement and COP27 climate pledges through the development of the world’s renewable energy capacity, several noteworthy achievements were made in 2022. Both Europe and Asia saw huge advances in their green energy development, with almost 33 percent of the world’s electricity expected to come from renewables by 2024 compared to 29 percent in 2020.
By Felicity Bradstock for Oilprice.com
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The projection that 33% of global electricity in 2024 will come from renewables compared with 29% in 2020 shows that renewable electricity is growing at 1% per annum despite more than $6 trillion global investments in the last decade. This means that fossil fuels and nuclear energy will have to continue contributing vast amounts to meet global demand for electricity generation.
Even Germany where renewables satisfied 46% of power demand in 2022 was forced to resurrect coal-fired electricity plants and to extend the de-commissioning date for its remaining nuclear plants.
And despite the successes of renewables in 2022, I very much doubt they will be able to meet the 2050 climate change goals.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Global Energy Expert