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Report: Global Electricity Review 2021

The world’s transition away from using coal to generate electricity is happening far too slowly to avoid the looming climate crisis.

Climate and energy think tank Ember’s has released its annual Global Electricity Review 2021, which shows the use of wind and solar drove a record drop in the use of coal-generated power, but only because the COVID-19 pandemic drove a drop in electricity usage. And, this decrease has already been wiped out since December 2020 electricity demand was higher than that of December 2019.

Coal generation fell a record 4% in the pandemic year of 2020, but that’s still insufficient to meet climate targets. With 77% of the world’s coal generation happening in Asia, all eyes are on how quickly it can reduce coal generation. Meanwhile fossil gas dominates elsewhere in the world. In 2020, 61% of the world’s electricity still came from fossil fuels.

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Wind and solar generation are cutting down coal use

2019 and 2020 bucked the trend as electricity demand temporarily slowed, which led to two record drops in coal generation. But even that wasn’t enough to put the world on target. Electricity demand will undoubtedly pick up again soon, especially as the world looks to electrify all the sectors still relying on fossil fuels.

This annual report analyses electricity data from every country in the world to give the first accurate view of the global electricity transition in 2020. It aggregates generation data by fuel by country from 2000. 68 countries comprising 90% global generation have full-year data to 2020 and have formed the basis of an estimate for changes in worldwide generation. All remaining countries have full data as far as 2019. G20 countries, which comprise 84% of world electricity generation, each have a separate in-depth country analysis.  

All the data can be viewed and downloaded freely from Ember’s website.