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Global Electricity Demand Surged 6% In 2021

Rebounding economies and extreme weather last year led to a 6-percent jump in global electricity demand, the largest percentage increase since the 2010 recovery from the 2008-2009 financial crisis, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its Electricity Market Report on Friday.

Soaring power demand as the world recovered from the 2020 lockdowns put enormous strain on the coal and natural gas supply chains, pushing up wholesale electricity prices. Although renewables continued to grow, coal and gas-fired electricity generation reached record levels in 2021, contributing to a new all-time high in annual global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the electricity sector, the IEA said.

Last year, the industrial sector contributed the most to demand growth, followed by the commercial and services sector and then the residential sector.

Despite all the net-zero pledges and push for greater use of renewables, coal met more than half of the increase in global electricity demand, with coal-fired electricity generation reaching an all-time peak. Coal power generation rose by 9 percent, for the fastest growth since 2011, propelled by the exceptional demand and coal’s cost competitiveness in some markets compared to gas, the IEA sad.

Renewables generation increased by 6 percent globally in 2021, despite unfavorable weather conditions, especially for hydropower.

Overall CO2 emissions from the electricity sector went up by nearly 7 percent to a record high, the agency said. 

“Sharp spikes in electricity prices in recent times have been causing hardship for many households and businesses around the world and risk becoming a driver of social and political tensions,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement.  

“Policy makers should be taking action now to soften the impacts on the most vulnerable and to address the underlying causes,” Birol added, calling for higher investment in low-carbon energy technologies including renewables, energy efficiency, nuclear power, and an expansion of robust and smart electricity grids to address record prices and emission levels.  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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