Half of the World is Already Past a Peak in Fossil Power But Asia Trails

Half of the world’s economies are already at least five years past a peak in power generation from fossil fuels, with emissions from these 107 power sectors falling by almost 20% in the last decade according to research from energy think tank Ember

Collectively, they represent 38% of global electricity demand. Economies that are at least one year past a peak in fossil power represent 50% of global demand, setting the stage for a peak and subsequent decline in global power sector emissions.

The vast majority (78) of the economies already five years past a peak in fossil power have displaced fossil generation through the expansion of clean power in the years since. 45 of these economies achieved this even as overall generation increased, in most cases driven by an increase in electricity demand Ember says.

The EU, Oceania, and North America are already well into a period of fossil power decline, with fossil generation dropping by 30%, 20%, and 15%, respectively, from their regional peaks.

Fossil power appears to have plateaued in Africa at a continent-wide level; a similar flattening is true for Latin America and the Caribbean, which has been the case for over a decade.

The only regions yet to reach a peak are Asia and the Middle East. But there are success stories in these regions too: Vietnam has reduced its fossil generation by 16% in just three years while Jordan and the UAE have almost reached five years since their peak in fossil generation.

Earlier this year, Ember’s analysis showed that 2023 may be the first year with structurally falling global emissions from the power sector if clean power growth continues.

Fast Deployment of Wind and Solar

However, Ember’s mid-year analysis showed that adverse hydro conditions in the first half of 2023 meant that power sector emissions plateaued rather than fell. It still remains too close to call whether power sector emissions will fall across the full year in 2023; if they do not, then the new era of falling power sector emissions would still likely start in 2024.

Reaching ‘peak’ fossil generation, and therefore emissions, in the power sector is a crucial milestone in the global transition to a clean, electrified economy. But the most critical part is what happens next.

To achieve the rapid declines in emissions required this decade, there needs to be a fast acceleration in the deployment of wind and solar power as they need to provide about 40% of global power by 2030, according to the IEA’s latest net-zero scenario.

Tripling global renewable capacity by 2030 is the single biggest action that governments can take to put the world on course for a 1.5C-aligned pathway.

Dave Jones Global Insights Lead, at Ember, said: “Not many people realise just how many countries’ power sectors are already well into a phase of fossil decline. For many countries, this was done simultaneously to rising electricity demand. Such is the success of solar and wind, the peak is close even in many key emerging economies. We are on the cusp of a new era of fossil decline in the global power sector.”