Environment. Why are renewable energies still far from fossil fuels?

A “lost historic opportunity”. In its annual report published on Wednesday, REN21, a network of experts specializing in renewable energies, regrets that the share of the latter in global energy consumption has stagnated in 2021. Conversely, gas, oil or even coal rebounded.

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 post-Covid rebound in oil, gas and coal, and an increase in general energy demand.

Share of renewables in global energy consumption stagnated in 2021, despite record renewable capacity installations

REN21 report

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, the Covid year of an exceptional drop in 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. This makes it very unlikely that even essential climate objectives will be met during this decade.

The end of fossil fuels, the challenge for a “livable” future

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 current 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 », Believes REN21.

France bad student

For REN21, States should start by setting binding deployment targets, with quantified short- and long-term plans and end dates for fossil fuels. Within the European Union, a 2009 directive stipulated that by 2020, renewable energies should have reached 23% of the States’ final consumption. With 19.1% of its energy coming from renewables, France is the only country to have missed its target.

Some countries are more open to renewables, such as Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, but also Spain and Portugal, which are among the States whose share of renewables increased the most between 2009 and 2019.

Others, as can be seen on the map below, are very poor performers, such as Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Japan, the United States or Australia.

Some 1,500 large cities, or 30% of the urban population, now also have targets.

Renewables, a “lifeline”

“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.

“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.”

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.

After a rebound in emissions, France promises “a boost to the deployment of renewable energies”

France’s greenhouse gas emissions rebounded in 2021 by 6.4% compared to 2020, due to the recovery of the post-Covid economy, but they have decreased by 9.6% since 2017, according to provisional official figures from Citepa. According to these figures posted online by Citepa, the body mandated to carry out the French emissions inventory, France emitted 418 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2021. This represents a net increase of 6.4% compared to the previous year, but 2020 had been marked by a massive drop in emissions (-9.6% compared to 2019) due to the paralysis of the linked economy. to the Covid-19 epidemic.

“This is a good result, which shows that the government has initiated changes that modify our ways of producing, moving and consuming,” welcomed the government on Tuesday after the Council of Ministers.

As part of the Paris agreement, which aims to limit global warming to significantly below +2°C compared to the pre-industrial era, if possible +1.5°C, France is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 compared to 1990. It was -23% in 2021, according to the latest figures from Citepa. But the deployment of renewable energies, in particular wind and solar, is still too slow and behind the objectives.

“As of this summer, an emergency law has given a boost to the deployment of renewable energies”, declared to AFP the Minister for Energy Transition, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, assuring that the country is on the trajectory towards carbon neutrality in 2050.

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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