Global power sector emissions increase above pre-Covid levels: Ember Report

The global power sector emissions have increased above pre-pandemic levels according to a recent report by energy think tank, Ember.

In the first half (1H) of 2021, the global power sector emissions rebounded, increasing 12 per cent from the lows seen in 1H-2020 when Covid-19 lockdowns went into effect. The emissions are now 5 per cent above the pre-pandemic levels of 1H-2019, while electricity demand has also risen by 5 per cent.

The increased global electricity demand was mostly met by wind and solar power (57 per cent) but also by an increase in emissions-intensive coal power (43 per cent) that caused the rise in CO2 emissions.

The Ember report comes in the wake of a recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which warned that time is running out for the world to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

The report compares the first six months of 2021 to the same period in 2019 to show for the first time how the electricity transition has changed as the world rebounds from the impact of the pandemic in 2020. For the first time, wind and solar generated over a tenth of global electricity and overtook nuclear generation.

In India, the situation is better as the continued impact of the pandemic in 1H-2021 kept electricity demand muted and coal rises minimally.

Electricity demand in 1H-2021 was only 3 per cent higher than the 1H 2019 levels. This is one of the lowest increases in developing Asia as pandemic restrictions continued. Almost 72 per cent of India’s increase in demand was met by growth in solar and wind, which rose by 47 per cent and 9 per cent, respectively.

Despite having pledged to propel their economies into a new green normal, most countries are yet to achieve a truly green recovery for their power sector. Although Norway and Russia appear in the ‘green recovery’ quadrant, this is due to temporary factors rather than a significant structural improvement in their electricity sector.  

Many countries had a ‘grey recovery,’ with high electricity demand growth, which was met in part with wind and solar but also extra coal generation, leading to higher power sector CO2 emissions. Some of the ‘grey recovery’ countries are Mongolia, China, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, and India.

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