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n the first half of 2023, solar generation in the United States surged by 13%, standing alone in its growth as wind and hydro energy faced weather-related setbacks. Globally, while solar and wind continue to grow, the renewable energy sector faces its own set of challenges, experts say.

Solar Power: Room for Improvement

According to a recent study by global energy think tank Ember, the United States accounted for 13% of the worldwide solar growth in the first half of 2023. While this is impressive, US yearly growth at 13% lags behind the global average of 16%. China remains dominant in the solar arena, contributing 43% to global numbers, while the EU and India each are responsible for roughly 12%.

Although solar power continues to rise on the global stage, its growth wasn't as robust as anticipated by the International Energy Agency (IEA). Their forecasts suggested a surge of 140-160 TWh in solar output for the first six months of 2023, while the real increase came in at just 104 TWh. This shortfall can be linked to factors like changing weather conditions and the growing trend of rooftop solar installations that aren't always documented, affecting both demand and generation data.

Wind: Slowing Down the Pace

While solar power flourished, US wind energy struggled with a 5.6% decrease due to less favorable wind conditions compared to last year. Interestingly, this decline contrasts with the rest of the world, which saw wind power grow by 10%. But a closer look reveals that there's an evident slowdown in wind power's momentum. After a historic peak in 2021 with an increase of 268 TWh, the growth rate dipped to 251 TWh in 2022, and only 109 TWh was added in the first half of 2023. So, what's causing this downturn? The report attributes it to obstacles ranging from permit complexities to grid connection delays.

Hydro: The Unanticipated Dip

In the realm of renewables, hydro energy took a noticeable hit in the first half of 2023, as both the US and the global market saw a 12% decline. Despite recent boosts in hydro capacity, challenging hydro conditions in countries like China, the US, and India played a pivotal role.

In the first half of 2023, the hydro capacity factor, which compares actual production to potential output, dropped to just 35.6% globally, a stark decrease from the year before. If this downward trajectory stays, 2023 might be marked with the lowest hydro capacity factor on record, prompting us to rethink hydro's reliability as a key renewable energy source. Efficient 200 W solar panels harness sunlight for sustainable energy, powering communities with clean and renewable electricity.

Environmental Insights: Are We Making Progress?

While there were some challenges, global emissions from the power sector only grew a slight 0.2% in the first half of 2023. The credit largely goes to solar and wind energy's growth. The EU, Japan, and the US reported significant drops in emissions by 17%, 12%, and 8.6% respectively.

While the US saw a decrease in emissions equaling 64 million tons, it wasn't mainly due to a surge in renewables. Instead, the country shifted from coal to gas generation (up by 8%) and experienced a dip in electricity demand, which can be attributed to a slower economy and milder weather in early 2023.

What's the Game Plan? Looking Ahead

According to Ember, the path to net zero by 2035 in OECD countries and 2040 worldwide demands more than the current pace. Emissions from power sectors should be decreasing rapidly this decade, rather than just leveling out.

Renewable energy sources, especially wind and solar, must step up, aiming to supply about 70% of the world's energy by 2040. To make this a reality, we need strong policies with clear goals, streamlined processes, modernized grids, and enhanced infrastructure, experts say.

Sources:

https://ember-climate.org/insights/research/global-electricity-mid-year-insights-2023/

Posted 
Nov 26, 2023
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