Global electricity demand is set to grow by close to 5% this year, after dipping 1% in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the latest semi-annual Electricity Market Report.
But even though generation from renewables like hydropower, wind and solar is due to grow 8% in 2021 and by more than 6% in 2022, it will only be able to meet about half the projected increase in global electricity demand. The rest will be met mostly by thermal plans that burn fossil fuels, especially coal.
In the pathway set out in IEA’s recent Roadmap to Net Zero by 2050, nearly three-quarters of global emissions reductions between 2020 and 2025 take place in the electricity sector. Achieving a transition of that speed and scale will require major policy changes, including a massive surge in clean energy investment and deployment.
The world’s electricity systems need to be ready to counter growing climate threats
Summer has just started in the northern hemisphere, and we are already seeing major strains on electricity systems from Iraq to North America as they struggle to cope with heat waves and low rainfall. Extreme weather puts extra pressure on power grids, raises demand for electricity and reduces the efficiency of traditional power plants, while droughts can affect hydropower, the world’s largest source of clean energy.
In this commentary, Dr Birol lays out seven key areas for action to make electricity systems as resilient as possible in the face of climate risks. They include massive and much needed investments in our grids, more flexible power generation, more efficient air conditioners and refrigerators, new technologies to help us better manage extreme weather, and more international cooperation.