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Power Sector Emissions Soar As Electricity Demand Rebounds

Global emissions from power generation bounced back above pre-pandemic levels as the growth in clean power generation wasn’t enough to meet soaring electricity demand, climate and energy think tank Ember said in a report on Wednesday.

CO2 emissions from the power sector globally were 5 percent higher in the first half of 2021, compared to the first half of 2019, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Ember’s estimates.

Electricity demand also rose by 5 percent globally. Early last year, power demand was 3 percent lower than in 2019, and emissions were 7 percent lower, but this was due to the lockdowns in almost every economy in the world.

As lockdowns eased and economies rebounded, global CO2 emissions had returned to pre-pandemic levels by the second half of 2020 as electricity demand jumped, Ember noted.

CO2 emissions rose because growth in clean power generation did not match the rise in demand. While wind and solar power met 57 percent of the demand increase, coal met the remaining 43 percent, especially in developing Asia, according to Ember.

Not a single country in the world has yet achieved a truly ‘green recovery’ for their power sector, with structural change in both higher electricity demand and lower CO2 power sector emissions, according to the think tank. The U.S., the EU, Japan, and South Korea saw last year lower power sector CO2 emissions compared to pre-pandemic levels—with wind and solar replacing coal—but only in the context of suppressed demand growth.

“Catapulting emissions in 2021 should send alarm bells across the world. We are not building back better, we are building back badly,” Dave Jones,

Global Programme Lead, Ember, said in a statement. 

“Rising CO2 emissions right now is a huge red flag that the world is off-course for 1.5 degrees,” Ember said.

Earlier this year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said that global energy-related CO2 emissions are on course to see this year the second-largest increase in history, driven by the resurgence of coal use in the power sector.


“This is a dire warning that the economic recovery from the Covid crisis is currently anything but sustainable for our climate,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director.  

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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