Expected global electricity demand outpaces growth in renewables

July 16, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News

Despite strong growth over the next two years, renewables such as hydropower, wind, and solar won’t keep up with the projected increase in global electricity demand in 2021 and 2022, according to the International Energy Agency’s Electricity Market Report—July 2021. The result could be a sharp rise in the use of coal power that risks pushing carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity sector to record levels next year.

Strong demand: After falling by about 1 percent in 2020 due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, global electricity demand is set to grow by close to 5 percent in 2021 and 4 percent in 2022—driven by the global economic recovery—according to the semiannual report, which was released July 15. Most of the increased demand is expected to come from the Asia Pacific region, primarily China and India.

Meanwhile, electricity generation from renewables is on track to grow around the world over the next two years—by 8 percent in 2021 and by more than 6 percent in 2022, based on current policy settings and economic trends. But even with this growth, renewables will only be able to meet around half the projected increase in global demand over that time span, according to the report.

Nuclear’s role: The report says nuclear power generation will grow by around 1 percent in 2021 and by 2 percent in 2022, leaving fossil fuel–based electricity to cover 45 percent of the additional demand in 2021 and 40 percent in 2022.

They said it: “Renewable power is growing impressively in many parts of the world, but it still isn’t where it needs to be to put us on a path to reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century,” said Keisuke Sadamori, IEA director of energy markets and security.

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