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Even record renewable energy growth did not hamper the fossil fuel sector in 2022

Even record renewable energy growth did not hamper the fossil fuel sector in 2022

Solar panels in the Bavarian Holledau region in Au, Germany. Photo credit: Reuters / Louisa Off.

By Anders Lorenzen

The renewable energy sector experienced record growth in 2022 of 1%. But despite this, it did not shift the dominance of fossil fuels. They still account for 82% of the global energy supply according to the industry’s Statistical Review of World Energy released this week.

2022 was dominated by turmoil in energy markets, as Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine helped to boost gas and coal prices to record levels in Europe and Asia.

Last year a total of 266 gigawatts (GW) of renewables was installed, with solar power leading the field. The President of the Energy Institute, a UK-based body, Juliet Davenport said: “Despite further strong growth in wind and solar in the power sector, overall global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions increased again. We are still heading in the opposite direction to that required by the Paris Agreement.”

The surge in renewables does not mean a reduction in emissions

While this shows that investments in renewables are increasing, it is still evident that reducing reliance on fossil fuels is a huge challenge. And to reduce emissions drastically to meet what was agreed at the Paris Agreement now seems an uphill task.  To have any hope of keeping temperatures below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, emissions need to be reduced by 43% by 2030 from 2019 levels. In 2022, emissions were up 0.8%, reaching a new high of 39.3 billion tonnes of CO2.

The survey found that in 2022 global primary energy demand grew by around 1% which, though down from the previous year’s 5.5% growth, was still 3% above the pre-coronavirus levels in 2019.  Except for Europe, energy demand grew last year.

The energy data

Excluding hydropower, renewables accounted for 7.5% of global energy consumption. Electricity generation was up at 2.3% with wind and solar power accounting for a record share of 12% of power generation, surpassing nuclear generation which had a reduction of 4.4%, and providing 84% of net electricity demand growth. 

Unfortunately, coal is the fossil fuel accounting for the highest share of emissions. Coal stayed dominant at 34.5%, with consumption rising by 0.6% to its highest level since 2014.  These figures were mainly driven by Chinese and Indian demand, while in Europe and North America, demand declined. 

Oil consumption kept on growing, increasing by 2.9 million barrels per day (bpd) to 97.3 bpd – though the growth slowed down compared to the previous year.  Most oil demand was due to increased demand for jet-fuel and diesel-related products.  In terms of production, oil grew by 3.8 million bpd with the biggest share seen in OPEC countries and the US. The capacity for refining oil grew by 534,000 bpd, which was mainly in non-OPEC countries.

Gas is the fossil fuel with the lowest emissions and by some is hailed as a transition fuel.   Global demand fell by 3% but still made up 24% of primary energy consumption, slightly less than the previous year. Overall gas production remained stable. This should be seen in the light of gas prices reaching record highs last year and part of this year. Within gas production, liquefied natural gas (LNG) was up by 5% at 542 billion cubic metres (bcm) – roughly the same pace of growth as the previous year. Most of the growth comes from North America and the Asia-Pacific region.

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