“An alarming reversal”: renewable energies moved away by fossils in 2021 – Economy

A “lost historic opportunity”, and no (yet) transition in sight: the share of renewable energies in global energy consumption stagnated in 2021, overtaken by the rebound of fossil fuels after the covid, underlines the annual report of the network of REN21 experts.

This year of post-covid recovery has however seen a record level of construction in both solar and wind power. But renewables (ENR) have been overtaken by the rebound in oil, gas and coal, and an increase in general energy demand. “The share of renewables in global energy consumption stagnated in 2021, despite record installations of renewable capacity,” the report concluded.

In ten years, their share of the total has just increased from 8.7% in 2009 to 11.7% in 2019, dams and biofuels included. In 2020, a covid year of exceptionally low energy demand, it fell to 12.6%. The exact figure for 2021 is not yet available, but should not respond to the acceleration necessary for the energy transition. “We do not see a global transition to clean energy taking place”, and this makes “very unlikely the achievement during this decade of climate objectives, which are nevertheless essential”, asserts the report.

CO2 emissions have increased

Last year, CO2 emissions increased by 6%. However, according to UN climate experts (IPCC), the world has three years to cap greenhouse gas emissions and hope for a “livable” future, by getting rid of fossil fuels, the main causes of global warming.

In 2021, new renewable electricity capacities reached 316 gigawatts added in 2021 (i.e. +17% compared to 2020), making it possible to supply 10% of the world’s electricity for the first time. But this addition of recording was not enough on its own to meet a 5% increase in electricity demand, to which fossil fuel power stations had to respond. For heating, cold and heat, the share of renewable origin remains at 11.2%, and in transport at 3.7%, “a particularly worrying lack of progress because this sector absorbs a third of the energy “.

“Despite green stimulus promises made during the pandemic, this historic opportunity has been lost,” and responses to the energy crisis have removed the nail, experts find. In fact, the main measure taken by the States in the face of soaring hydrocarbon prices has been offset by their support for the production and/or purchase of gas or fuel, underlines REN21.

“It’s an alarming step backwards”

“Since the rise in prices and the crisis with Russia, we are witnessing a frenzy in the search for fossil resources”, adds the executive director of REN21, Rana Adib, “it is an alarming step backwards”. While “investing in renewables would take us out of the risk of inflation, with energy at a fixed price”, she continues, citing the case of Australia, where the very pro-coal Queensland suffers from electricity prices. 30% higher than those observed in the southern regions favorable to renewable energy. “The transition is possible if we invest in energy savings, efficiency and renewables,” summarizes Rana Adib. “And if we don’t succeed now, I don’t know when we will succeed.”

For REN21, States should start by setting binding deployment targets, with quantified short- and long-term plans and end dates for fossil fuels. Some countries are more outgoing: Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, but also Spain, Portugal… Some 1,500 large cities, or 30% of the urban population, now also have targets.

Faced with global warming, “energy transition is our lifeline, and renewables the only source of energy that can offer all countries greater autonomy and energy security”, pleads Teresa Ribera, Spanish Minister for Ecological Transition. and vice-president of REN21. The report also notes a boom in direct contracts (known as “PPA”) signed between producers and major buyers, in particular large companies: +24% in one year.

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