The International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned that renewables are not expanding quickly enough to keep up with the rebound in global energy demand, which could see emissions from electricity generation rise to a new high.

While global electricity demand slipped 1% last year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the IEA forecasts demand to jump close to 5% this year and rise a further 4% in 2022, as the global economy recovers.

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While it expects electricity from renewables to grow 8% this year, and a further 6% in 2022, the IEA warns this will only meet about half of the projected increase in global electricity demand over the period.

“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,” said Keisuke Sadamori, IEA director of Energy Markets and Security.

“As the economy rebounds after the pandemic, we’ve seen a surge in electrical generation from fossil fuels. To shift to a sustainable trajectory, we need to massively step up investment in clean-energy technologies — especially renewables and energy efficiency.”

Fossil fuel-based electricity generation will meet about 45% of the forecast increase in demand, while nuclear will make up the rest, according to the IEA’s biannual Electricity Market Report.

This would wipe out the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector that was recorded in 2019 and 2020, with CO2 from electricity generation now forecast to rise 3.5% this year and 2.5% in 2022, taking them to an all-time high.

Most of the forecast increase in electricity demand over the next two years is expected to come from the Asia Pacific region, mainly China and India.

The rise in fossil fuel-based generation will see gas-fired generation, which slumped 2% last year, increase 1% in 2021 and 2% in 2022.

Meanwhile, coal-fired electricity generation is forecast to increase by about 5% this year and a further 3% next year, according to the IEA.

The IEA explained gas growth lagged behind coal because it plays a smaller role in the Asia Pacific region and it faces competition from renewables in Europe and North America.

The anticipated rise in coal-fired electricity generation is also at odds with the IEA’s recent Roadmap to Net Zero by 2050, which claimed coal-fired electricity generation would need to fall by more than 6% per year between 2020 and 2025 to be on the pathway towards net zero by 2050.

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