Global Electricity Production Is Roaring Back—and So Are CO2 Emissions

9th August, 2021.      //   General Interest  // 

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According to a disturbing research issued on July 15 by the International Energy Agency, carbon emissions from power plants throughout the world have been declining in recent years, but are on the verge of making a spectacular comeback over the next 18 months (IEA).

Some of the recent reduction can be attributed to COVID-19 lockdowns, as office buildings, for example, lowered their energy use while staff worked remotely. CO2 emissions from power generating decreased further 3.5 percent throughout the world during COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, part of a wider reduction in emissions.

However, when economies recover, worldwide power consumption is anticipated to improve, with electricity demand expected to rise by 5% in 2021 and 4% in 2022, according to the IEA research. Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power will account for roughly half of that growth, but nuclear power is anticipated to expand globally as well. However, fossil fuel power plants will provide 40-45 percent of new electrical capacity, with power plant emissions increasing by 3.5 percent in 2021 and 2.5 percent in 2022, which is crucial for the climate.

The report’s forecasted increase in coal consumption is particularly alarming. The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) global plan for achieving zero emissions is based on a rapid global coal drawdown, requiring 6% annual reduction throughout the world over the next four years. Instead, coal consumption is anticipated to increase by about 5% this year, and by another 3% the following year.

In addition, the IEA study underlined recent strain on electricity networks throughout the world, which was prompted by unexpected weather patterns, some of which were connected to climate change. For example, China implemented the most stringent energy rationing measures in ten years this winter, when strong demand for heating amid the coldest winter in half a century collided with high power consumption from an economy roaring back to life after a COVID-19 downturn. Cold winter temperatures and a natural gas import shortage put strain on Japan’s energy grid.

The Texas blackouts this past February were the most severe energy access problems, owing to natural gas power infrastructure’ inability to withstand the region’s high low temperatures. The IEA classified the tragedy, which left over 700 Texans dead after days without electricity in bitter cold, as the most catastrophic of any power outage globally this year in its study. Following last month’s record-breaking heatwave, which stressed local networks attempting to keep up with power demand for air cooling, the study predicted a rise in total electricity usage in Canada and the United States this summer.

The IEA, which was formed as an international body in the aftermath of the 1970s oil crisis, is a powerful, 46-year-old organization. It has recently shifted its rhetoric on climate change, asking for billions of dollars in new global renewable energy investment in 2020 and stating this spring that nations should stop investing in new oil, natural gas, and coal sources in order to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. The findings of the organization’s most recent study provide a sobering perspective, demonstrating what appears to be a widening gap between the fossil fuel cutbacks required to avoid ecological disaster and the reality.