The global energy landscape has achieved a momentous milestone, surpassing the 30% mark for renewable electricity, driven by an impressive surge in solar and wind energy, reveals a report by global energy think tank Ember.

This surge in renewables, rising from just 19% in 2000, signals a shift toward sustainable energy sources, driving down the carbon intensity of global power generation to unprecedented lows.

The report, titled Global Electricity Review, offers a comprehensive overview of the global power landscape in 2023, drawing on country-level data from 80 nations, representing 92% of global electricity demand. The findings, disclosed alongside the world's inaugural open dataset on electricity generation in 2023, underscore a seismic transformation in the energy sector.

"The renewables future has arrived," stated Dave Jones, Ember's director of global insights, emphasizing the unexpected acceleration of solar energy adoption. Solar power emerged as the primary driver of electricity growth, outpacing coal in 2023. Surging ahead for the nineteenth consecutive year, solar now claims the title of the fastest-growing electricity source globally, surpassing wind energy to become the foremost contributor to new electricity generation for the second consecutive year.

While the trajectory toward clean energy appears promising, challenges persist. The report highlights a significant dip in hydropower generation, attributable to droughts in key regions such as China. Despite this setback, renewable capacity additions in 2023 would have enabled a notable decline in fossil fuel generation under normal circumstances. However, an uptick in coal generation, particularly in drought-affected nations like China, India, Viet Nam, and Mexico, offset this potential decline, resulting in a 1% rise in global power sector emissions.

Nevertheless, the report projects a forthcoming era of declining power sector emissions, with a projected 2% decrease in global fossil generation anticipated in 2024. This trajectory aligns with commitments made at the UN's COP28 climate change conference, where world leaders agreed to triple global renewables capacity by 2030. If achieved, this target could propel the world toward a 60% renewable electricity share by 2030, substantially curbing power sector emissions and advancing climate goals.

Jones emphasized the critical role of high-level policy ambition, incentive mechanisms, and flexibility solutions in propelling the rapid growth of solar and wind energy, particularly in nations like China, Brazil, and the Netherlands. " Expanding clean electricity not only helps to decarbonise the power sector, it also provides the step up in supply needed to electrify the economy; and that’s the real game-changer for the climate," he remarked.

Echoing these sentiments, former UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said: “The fossil fuel era has reached its necessary and inevitable expiration date as these findings show so clearly. This is a critical turning point: Last century’s outdated technologies can no longer compete with the exponential innovations and declining cost curves in renewable energy and storage. All of humanity and the planet upon which we depend will be better off for it.”

Commenting with regards to hydropower, Eddie Rich, CEO of the International Hydropower Association, emphasised:  “Hydropower continues to generate more electricity than any other renewable but wind and solar power are on the rise. Sustainable hydropower needs to double capacity by 2050 to provide the flexibility and storage capacity necessary to support the growing intermittent renewable energy sources. That means planning now. Water, wind and sun get the job done!”