Surging Electricity Demand to Boost Emissions as Coal Use Climbs

Global electricity consumption will surge this year as the world emerges from the coronavirus pandemic, with fossil fuels supplying almost half the increase in a shift that threatens ambitious net-zero carbon emission targets.

Power demand will climb almost 5% in 2021 after sliding 1% last year, according to a report Thursday from the International Energy Agency. Most of the growth will come from Asia where strong demand for coal is keeping the dirtiest fossil fuel the world’s biggest source of electricity.

Clean energy is also rebounding, but not enough to offset the gains in coal and rein in greenhouse gases that are driving climate change. After two years of declines, carbon emissions from the power sector will climb 3.5% this year and another 2.5% to a record high in 2022, the IEA said in its semi-annual Electricity Market Report. As a result, the world is slipping off the trajectory needed for nations to become carbon neutral.

“Renewable power is growing impressively in many parts of the world, but it still isn’t where it needs to be to put us on a path to reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century,” Keisuke Sadamori, IEA’s director of energy markets and security, said in a statement.

After declining by 4.6% last year, coal-fired electricity production is projected to increase almost 5% in 2021 and another 3% in 2022. Renewables will increase by 8% this year and 6% next year but that will supply only about half of the world’s increased need for electricity.

That will boost emissions from power production for at least the next two years, at a time when the IEA has said they need to come down by an average of 4.4% per year to reach net-zero climate goals.

“To shift to a sustainable trajectory, we need to massively step up investment in clean energy technologies,” Sadamori said.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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