5 charts that show renewable energy’s latest milestone

wind maui

(Tim Foster, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Simon Torkington, Formative Content


The 36 countries that make up the OECD bloc of developed nations have reached a milestone in the production of green energy. For the first time, electricity derived from renewable sources has outstripped that generated by burning coal.

Image: International Energy Agency

Figures from the International Energy Agency for 2018 show renewables as an energy source just edging out coal. When taken as a total across the bloc, renewables were used to produce 2,896 terawatt hours of electricity, while burning coal produced 2,863 terawatt hours.

It’s a tight margin but the chart above shows a clear trend. Coal is in rapid decline across the OECD, while renewable sources of energy are surging. Gas is now the most common source of fuel for energy production across the OECD. It’s cleaner than coal but still a fossil fuel that contributes to global warming.

Various sources of renewable energy have given OECD nations the ability to rapidly scale production. Hydro power is by far the leading source, with more than half the bloc’s total supply coming from water-powered production.

Image: International Energy Agency

Wind farms are the second largest source of green energy, producing 23% of the OECD’s supply. Solar power is another major contributor. The falling cost and increased efficiency of solar panels has pushed up their share of renewable electricity production in the OECD to 8.4%.

A global shift

The dash for renewables is not confined to developed nations. Around the world new generating capacity is being installed at a phenomenal rate, driven mainly by wind and solar. In the middle of 2018 the world reached a landmark, with more than 1,000 gigawatts of wind and solar capacity online, according to data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

Image: BNEF

The problem with coal

Despite the increase in renewables, more coal than ever is being burned to generate electricity.

Image: International Energy Agency

Coal power generation increased 3% in 2018, and for the first time topped the 10,000 TWh mark, according to the International Energy Agency. Coal is still the largest fuel source for generating electricity, accounting for 38% of total global production.

The growth in coal-fired production was mainly in Asia, particularly in China and India. Investment in coal-fired power plants declined by nearly 3%, however, to the lowest level since 2004. India and China are also cancelling and delaying plans for new coal-fired power stations.

To hit targets for a sustainable global energy supply, coal-fired production needs to fall dramatically, and quickly, with an associated exponential rise in renewable production, as the chart below from the IEA illustrates.

Image: International Energy Agency

At the current rate of change, the world is set to miss sustainable development targets, but an accelerated rate of investment in renewable capacity could yet tip the balance in favour of greener energy.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Agreement reached on new EU Solidarity Corps

UNIDO promotes post-harvest excellence for mangoes in the Mekong River Delta of Viet Nam

Making money from meeting the SDGs? An overarching approach to sustainable development.

GSMA & UNDP announce an ‘Impact Partnership’ Advancing the Sustainable Development Goals at MWC Barcelona 2021

Should Europe be afraid of the developing world?

Thai citizenship means ‘dream of a brighter future’ for cave rescue boys, says UN Refugee Agency

Parliament backs a modernised EU electoral law

COVID-19 has left many employees in the lurch. What’s next for the global workforce?

A Sting Exclusive: China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi on South China Sea issue at the ASEAN Regional Forum

The latest emoji are more inclusive – but who approves them?

MEPs debate Brexit and relations with China following EU spring summit

Natural gas: Parliament extends EU rules to pipelines from non-EU countries

ACP-EU Parliamentary Assembly: strengthening the partnership

At last Britain considers a super-soft Brexit

Eurogroup president swallows statement on savings confiscation

Why India can show us how to achieve growth with purpose

This plastic drinks bottle is made from plants

Prevent future crises and empower youth – now!

COP21 Paris: The Final Agreement Adopted-full text

Migrants and asylum seekers on the Greek islands: committee debate

Victims of terrorism remembered

Five years on from ISIL ‘caliphate’ proclamation in Iraq, Security Council makes first-ever visit

Why we need both science and humanities for a Fourth Industrial Revolution education

This is why attractive cities do better economically

New UN report shows record number of children killed and maimed in conflict

Cape Town’s crisis shows us the real cost of water

Importance of teaching ethics in Brazilian Medical Schools

EU Solidarity Fund: Commission puts forward financial assistance worth €823 million for the Croatia earthquake, floods in Poland and the coronavirus crisis

Coronavirus: Commission proposes to activate fiscal framework’s general escape clause to respond to pandemic

‘Cataclysmic events’ in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, began ‘global push’ against nuclear weapons says Guterres, honouring victims

UN civil society conference to focus on sustainable solutions for challenges of urban life

Has the treacherous theory about the ‘French patient’ finally prevailed?

Cohesion Policy after 2020: preparing the future of EU investments in health

5 ways the world is rallying around Australia as bushfires rage

EU-US trade agreement talks to be affected by American bugs

COP21 Breaking News_10 December: UN Climate Chief Calls for Final Push to Meet Adaptation Fund Goal Very Close to Target

The EU Consumer Policy on the Digital Market: A Behavioral Economics View

Aung San Suu Kyi defends Myanmar from accusations of genocide, at top UN court

IMF’s Lagarde: Estimating Cyber Risk for the Financial Sector

From Graduation to professional career: has medicine, in Brazil, become more feminist?

“They are trying to make improvements, but of course they are quite slow for my generation”, Vice President of JADE Victor Soto on another Sting Exclusive

What the world can do to solve the Afghan refugee crisis

Why support for Latin America’s early tech hubs is vital for the region

What does leadership mean in an age of perpetual change?

Brexit: the Commission proposes the creation of a Brexit Adjustment Reserve

COVID-19 vaccination: MEPs call for EU and global solidarity

Recognize, celebrate and ‘stand in solidarity’ with persons with albinism

To Brexit or not to Brexit: British exceptionalism doesn’t allow any Obama telling Brits what to do

Draghi left alone with no hope of boosting EU growth as Merkel just focuses on next elections

Getting vaccinated should just be considered a human right?

Road safety: Data show improvements in 2018 but further concrete and swift actions are needed

How can we build a workforce for our digital future?

EU adopts €130 million support package for Syrian refugees and local communities in Jordan and Lebanon

European Union and African Union sign partnership to scale up preparedness for health emergencies

How a start-up in India is pioneering a way to tackle the global e-waste problem

Resolving Israel-Palestinian conflict, ‘key to sustainable peace’ in the Middle East: Guterres

Smart cities are great but we also need smart villages

5 facts you should know about the world’s refugees

If we don’t protect the ocean, humanitarian disaster awaits

How COVID-19 and ‘work from anywhere’ can build the city of the future

More Stings?

Comments

  1. Still not fast enough. But here a sixth graph:

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: