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Emissions from the World's Energy Sector Hit a Standstill for the First Six Months of 2023

Amid burgeoning solar and wind contributions, the global power sector's emissions barely budged in H1 2023. Fresh findings from Ember, an energy research powerhouse, unpack this peculiar stasis.

Released today, Ember's analytical foray indicates a near-zero uptick—0.2% to be precise—in worldwide power emissions during the first six months of this year, juxtaposed against the same period in 2022. While such an increment might seem negligible, it casts an intriguing light on the mechanisms at play within the global energy landscape.

Here's the paradox: Despite solar and wind energy's stellar escalation globally—a case in point being their increased share in global electricity, catapulting from 12.8% to 14.2%—these green gains were virtually cancelled out. And what's the culprit? A jaw-dropping plummet in hydroelectric power output, exacerbated by severe drought conditions in China.

An alternative narrative might have emerged in a world unmarred by the hydro shortfall. Ember's analysis reveals that a constant hydroelectric output, based on 2022 figures, could have nudged power emissions downward by an encouraging 2.9%.

But alas, what could've been a decline turned into a maintenance of the status quo. The gap left by dwindling hydro resources had to be filled, and regrettably, fossil fuel power stepped in as the reluctant understudy, neutralizing any progress that could have been made.

Report author and senior electricity analyst Malgoratza Wiatros-Motyka said it remained possible that power sector emissions could fall this year - a scenario that would mark the first reduction in emissions outside of an economic crisis.

"It's still hanging in the balance if 2023 will see a fall in power sector emissions," she said. "While it is encouraging to see the remarkable growth of wind and solar energy, we can't ignore the stark reality of adverse hydro conditions intensified by climate change.

"The world is teetering at the peak of power sector emissions, and we now need to unleash the momentum for a rapid decline in fossil fuels by securing a global agreement to triple renewables capacity this decade."

Wind and solar undeniably dominated the electricity stage over the half-year period in question. Wind energy production swelled by 10%, and solar shot up a commendable 16%. Meanwhile, fossil fuel generation merely crawled up by a paltry 0.1%.

Drawing upon electricity metrics from a staggering 78 nations—covering an impressive 92% of global demand—Ember's comprehensive report delves into numerous variables. Notably, the growth in overall electricity demand worldwide has significantly slumped. A mere 0.4% spike in H1 2023 represents a drastic slowdown from the decade's average of 2.6%.

Such lethargy in power consumption could be attributed to various factors, including stunted economic momentum, most prominently in affluent countries like Japan, the EU, and the U.S., where electricity consumption plummeted by 5.6%, 4.6%, and 3.4%, respectively. Of course, technological leaps in energy efficiency and crisis-induced energy conservation efforts, such as the Russia-Ukraine crisis, could also influence factors.

The first half of 2023 has positioned us at a unique but precarious juncture in the global energy narrative. And if we dare to move beyond this point, a multi-pronged approach rooted in worldwide unity and innovation is unequivocally required.


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