Renewable energy meets nearly half of global electricity demand in 2021
According to the latest electricity report issued by the International Energy Agency (IEA), global electricity demand will rebound strongly in 2021 and 2022. After falling by about 1% in 2020, global Solar Energy Generating Systems demand is expected to increase by nearly 5% and 4% in 2021 and 2022, respectively. Most of this growth will occur in the Asia-Pacific region. More than half of the global growth in 2022 will occur in China, the world's largest electricity consumer. India is the third largest consumer and will account for 9% of global growth.
From 2021 to 2022, renewable energy power generation will continue to grow strongly, but it will not be able to keep up with the ever-increasing demand. After a 7% increase in renewable energy power generation in 2020, it is expected to increase by 8% and more than 6% in 2021 and 2022, respectively. Despite the rapid growth, renewable energy is expected to only meet about half of the growth in electricity demand in 2021 and 2022. Nuclear power generation will increase by approximately 1% and 2% in 2021 and 2022, respectively.
Fossil fuel power generation will meet 45% and 40% of the additional demand in 2021 and 2022, respectively. After a 4.6% drop in coal-fired power generation in 2020, it will increase by nearly 5% by 2021 to exceed pre-pandemic levels. By 2022, it will grow by a further 3% and may hit a record high. After a 2% drop in gas-fired power generation in 2020, it is expected to increase by 1% in 2021 and close to 2% in 2022. Natural gas growth lags behind coal because it plays a smaller role in the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region, and it also faces increasing competition from renewable energy sources from the United States and Europe.
Carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector will increase in 2021 and 2022. After falling by 1% and 3.5% in 2019 and 2020, respectively, the power sector’s carbon dioxide emissions are expected to increase by 3.5% and 2.5% in 2021 and 2022, respectively, which will bring them to the highest levels in history. The decline in global power generation emission intensity will slow from more than 3% in 2020 to about 1% in 2021 and 2022.
IEA believes that stronger policy actions are needed to achieve climate goals. In the IEA to 2050 Net Zero Emissions scenario, nearly three-quarters of the emissions reductions between 2020 and 2025 will be in the power sector, where emissions will drop by an average of 4.4% per year. To achieve this decline, coal-fired power generation needs to be reduced by more than 6% per year, partly replaced by natural gas, which is growing at a rate of about 5% per year. .
Wholesale electricity prices have rebounded. The International Energy Agency wholesale electricity market price index, which tracks price trends in major advanced economies, shows that prices in the first half of 2021 have increased by 54% over the same period in 2020. This is a 25% drop in average prices for the entire year of 2020.
The recent extreme weather events threatened the security of supply. In the first half of 2021, affected by extreme cold, heat and drought, supply shortages occurred in many areas. In order to classify power outages, IEA introduced a new power safety incident scale that rates the severity of incidents based on the proportion of affected customers and the duration of the supply interruption. For example, the Texas Power Crisis in February, during which customers were out of power for four days, was rated the highest in this category.
The higher share of variable renewable energy has a measurable impact on the operation and design of power systems. Analysis of selected markets shows that hourly demand changes that must be matched to flexible power generation and consumption are increasing. In addition, the gap between the maximum and minimum flexible power generation levels required every day is widening. This makes the power system more flexible to supplement the generation of variable renewable energy sources such as wind and solar photovoltaics, becoming more and more important.
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