The annual figures produced by the IEA on the OECD countries are a useful gauge of shifting sources of power generation. The OECD is made up of all the world’s richest countries; all of North America plus Columbia and Chile in South America, most of Europe, Japan, Korea, Australia and Turkiye.
Overall, between November 2021 and November 2022, fossil fuels still accounted for over half of all power generated, with renewables now up to just over a third and nuclear down to a sixth.
But, between November 2021 and November 2022 there has been a growth in the use of renewable sources of energy and a decline in the use of fossil fuels and nuclear.
Within fossil fuels coal and natural gas have both declined by about the same amount.
Within renewables there has been a dramatic increase in solar and a smaller but steady increase in wind.
The International Energy Agency has projected that 90% of new energy generation will be renewable by 2025. With the IPCC warning that 1.5C is slipping beyond our grasp unless we accelerate this trend sharply there should be no holding back on getting to 100% and eating into those big residual fossil fuel slices.
- These figures are just for the generation of electricity. This is a vital area, but fossil fuels are also in use for domestic heating and cooking (78% of homes in UK have gas central heating) transport and manufacturing. Energy generation has made faster progress towards sustainability than other sectors. Transport emissions in the UK, for example, have made no progress for over a decade.
- These are figures from the OECD. OECD countries are primarily those with high per capita climate footprints and the huge legacy of having generated the overwhelming majority of the carbon emissions that have led to the temperature rises we have seen to date. This is therefore not a full picture of the Global sources of energy use as it misses out most of the Global South. China has a large legacy use of fossil fuels but is investing in renewables on a significantly greater scale than the OECD.
- The OECD also has the capital and technical wherewithal to invest in renewable energy; but are denying this for the most part to the Global South, which is being impacted harder and deeper. On average African countries are already losing 5-15% of GDP a year due to adverse climate impacts, so having to run harder and harder to stand still. Global South countries are charged far higher rates of interest by banks if they want to borrow to invest in energy transition than Global North countries, which makes it hard for them to do so without being caught in a debt trap.
- The Global South, for the most part, has a very high proportion of traditional renewable energy (Hydroelectric dams) so the transfer of capital and technical expertise is vital for them to develop without reliance on fossil fuels. The decision by China to stop all coal power funding as part of Belt and Road is a huge positive step. The decision by the EU to classify gas as a transition fuel and encourage a “dash for gas” in Africa (to make up for the loss of Russian supply) is a step backwards.