Green energy ‘stuck’ as fossil fuels dominate

wind turbines

A new study says the world is using more fossil fuels than ever before as the transition to green energy stalls.

The Renewables Global Status Report 2022 says that the share of wind and solar power in the global energy mix has increased minimally in the last decade.

While renewables boomed in the power sector last year, they failed to meet the overall increase in demand.

In transport, which accounts for a third of the energy, renewables contribute less than 4%.

The current situation in Ukraine has exacerbated this trend, according to the authors.

REN21 is an international energy policy network made up of industry figures, scientists and some governments.

Its 17th annual status report draws on more than 600 experts to produce a snapshot of what’s really happening in terms of renewable energy.

The study says that the transition to renewable energy has essentially stalled. The use of coal, oil and gas continues to dominate total energy consumption.

sun tide

A solar and tidal power plant recently opened in China

“The share of renewable energy has gone from 10.6% to 11.7% in the last decade, but fossil fuels, all coal and gas have gone from 80.1% to 79.6%. So, is stalling,” said Rana Adib, executive director of REN21.

“And since the demand for energy is increasing, this means that we are consuming more fossil fuels than ever before.”

As the world recovered from Covid-19 in 2021, there was a significant increase in overall energy use, most of which was covered by fossil fuels.

This resulted in a major increase in carbon emissions, which increased globally by around 2 billion tons.

Since then, as supplies have struggled to keep up with demand, oil, gas and coal prices have risen sharply.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has added to the uncertainty and has sent governments scrambling to find alternative sources.

As energy prices rose for consumers, some countries, including the UK, imposed new taxes on profits made by oil and gas producers.


Large-scale wind turbine installations grew rapidly in 2021

However, many nations have also enacted new subsidies for fossil fuels.

“We are globally spending $11 million per minute to subsidize fossil fuels. In 2020, this was 7% of global GDP,” said Rana Adib.

“Obviously this creates a system that is unbalanced, because although renewable energy is an economical alternative to fossil fuels, it is not playing a fair market.”

While renewable energy reached 10% of global electricity production in 2021, the problems lie in challenging areas such as transportation.

Cars, trucks, ships and planes account for 32% of total final energy consumption, but green energy only had a 3.7% share last year.

According to Rana Adib, the slow progress underscores the critical importance of policies in moving markets and attitudes.

“The reality is that with the internal combustion engine ban, there is a regulatory obligation to move away from this, so we see a trend in electric mobility, which is increasing quite exponentially, and I think this is quite encouraging. “

There has also been a lack of progress on the political promises made at COP26, the big international climate conference last year.


Growing crops in the shade of solar panels is called agrivoltaics

While 135 countries had net-zero emissions targets for 2050 in the run-up to the meeting in Glasgow, only 84 had economy-wide renewable energy targets.

But that was before the world-changing events of the last six months.

Rising energy prices mean that governments are now looking for all the tools to ease the burden on their citizens.

And that could possibly lead to a big increase in spending on greener sources, since they are not only much cheaper than fossil fuels, but also more attractive for other reasons.

“The energy transition is our lifeline,” said Teresa Ribera, vice president of the Spanish government.

“It will enable innovative business models and forms of organization, transform value chains, redistribute economic power and shape governance in new and more people-centric ways.

“With the right investments in technology, renewable energy is the only energy source that offers every country in the world the opportunity for greater autonomy and energy security.”

Follow Matt on Twitter @mattmcgrathbbc.

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