UK ranked sixth in world for share of electricity generated by wind and solar

US and China are biggest global renewable energy producers, but fossil fuels still make up the vast majority of what they use

Harry Cockburn
Environment Correspondent
Thursday 08 July 2021 22:24
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Wind and solar power accounted for 29 percent of Britain’s electricity production last year, putting the country sixth on the global league table — but well behind first-place Denmark.

Analysis by climate and energy think tank Ember noted that while, neither the US nor China were in the top 15 by share, they collectively produce more than two-thirds of the world’s solar and wind power.

Globally, almost 10 per cent of the world’s electricity comes from wind and solar, a figure that has more than doubled since 2015.

The analysis also noted that countries such as Vietnam, Chile and South Korea have seen rapid growth in wind and solar generation.

But the International Energy Agency (IEA) warns that 100% clean power is needed by 2040 worldwide to curb climate emissions to limit temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, seen as a threshold beyond which the worst impacts of climate change will be felt.

In the analysis, Ember warned that building enough wind and solar just to keep up with growing power demand will be a key challenge for many countries, as sectors such as heating and transport switch to using electricity.

In the next decade, clean electricity deployment must accelerate to replace fossil fuels and meet rising demand for electricity as the world’s economy electrifies and to provide electricity access for all, the think tanks said.

Charles Moore, Ember’s Europe lead, said: “Wind and solar will be the backbone of the electricity system of the future.

“Countries like the UK are already proving that wind and solar are up to the job.

“However, there is still work to do for advanced economies to achieve 100% clean electricity by 2035 and play their part to avoid dangerous climate change.”

He added: “In the last decade, the UK has led the way in a rapid coal phase-out," and said that as hosts of global Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow this year, the UK could steer the world away from fossil fuels and towards clean electricity.”

The top 15 countries producing wind and solar power as a percentage of electricity production are:

  1. Denmark 61%
  2. Uruguay 44%
  3. Ireland 35%
  4. Germany 33%
  5. Spain 29%
  6. UK 29%
  7. Greece 27%
  8. Portugal 26%
  9. Belgium 20%
  10. Netherlands 19%
  11. Italy 17%
  12. Sweden 17%
  13. Chile 17%
  14. Australia 17%
  15. Romania 16% 

Meanwhile 11 per cent of US power comes from solar and wind, while in China the figure is 9 per cent

The analysis warned that despite global optimism for the roll out of renewables, there is an enormous gulf in terms of the speed of deployment.

“Renewables only met a third of Africa’s electricity demand growth in the last five years, with fossil gas making up the rest,” the study said.

“In the next decade, clean electricity deployment must accelerate to both replace fossil fuels and meet rising demand for electricity as we electrify the world’s economy and provide electricity access for all. Wind and solar are the cheapest and cleanest forms of power and are poised to lead this transformation,” the analysis concluded.

Additional reporting by PA.

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