After falling by about 1% in 2020 due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, global electricity demand will increase by 5% in 2021 and 4% in 2022, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). However, almost half of this increase will be from fossil fuels - notably coal - threatening to push CO2 emissions from the power sector to record levels in 2022. Nuclear power generation is forecast to grow by around 1% in 2021 and by 2% in 2022.(Image: IEA)
Most of the increase in electricity demand is expected to come from the Asia Pacific region, according to the latest edition of the IEA's semi-annual Electricity Market Report released today. More than half of global growth in 2022 will occur in the China, the world's largest electricity consumer. India, the third-largest consumer, will account for 9% of global growth.
Renewable electricity generation, which grew 7% in 2020, continues to rise strongly - but cannot keep up with increasing demand, the IEA says. Based on current policy settings and economic trends, electricity generation from renewables - including hydropower, wind and solar PV - will increase by 8% in 2021 and by more than 6% in 2022. However, renewables are expected to be able to serve only around half of the projected growth in global demand in 2021 and 2022.
Fossil fuel-based electricity generation is set to cover 45% of additional demand in 2021 and 40% in 2022, with nuclear power accounting for the rest. As a result, carbon emissions from the electricity sector - which fell in both 2019 and 2020 - are forecast to increase by 3.5% in 2021 and by 2.5% in 2022, which would take them to an all-time high.
Coal-fired electricity generation is set to increase by almost 5% this year and by a further 3% in 2022, potentially reaching an all-time high. Meanwhile, gas-fired generation, which declined 2% in 2020, is expected to increase by 1% in 2021 and by nearly 2% in 2022.Increase in emissions
"Our analyses show that the short-term trend in global electricity markets is not consistent with a zero emissions pathway," the IEA said.
In the pathway set out in IEA's recent Roadmap to Net Zero by 2050, nearly three-quarters of global emissions reductions between 2020 and 2025 take place in the electricity sector. To achieve this decline, the pathway calls for coal-fired electricity generation to fall by more than 6% a year.
After falling by 1% in 2019 and by 3.5% in 2020, CO2 emissions from the electricity sector are forecast to increase by 3.5% in 2021 and by 2.5% in 2022, which would take them to an all-time high. The IEA sees the decline in the emissions intensity of global electricity generation slowing from more than 3% in 2020 to around 1% in 2021 and 2022.Modest growth in nuclear
Nuclear generation has declined recently, with production almost 3% lower in 2020 than 10 years earlier, partly because of low demand levels forcing plants to produce below maximum capacity, especially in Europe. Nuclear generation declined by 4% in 2020, the IEA says.
It expects nuclear-based production to recover slightly, by 1%, in 2021. Utilisation rates are rebounding together with demand. In addition, the Mochovce 3 unit in the Slovak Republic is expected to start commercial operation this year. However, the IEA says these increases are counterbalanced by the retirement in 2020 of the Fessenheim plant in France and Ringhals in Sweden.
With the retirement of 4.3 GW at the end of 2021 in Germany, 2 GW in the UK and 1 GW in Belgium before the end of 2022, nuclear electricity generation is likely to drop again in 2022, by 3%, even if the Olkiluoto 3 EPR in Finland starts commercial operation.
"When the IEA published its first Electricity Market Report in December 2020, large parts of the world were in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting lockdowns," the report says. "Half a year later, electricity demand around the world is rebounding or even exceeding pre-pandemic levels, especially in emerging and developing economies. But the situation remains volatile, with COVID-19 still causing disruptions."
Since the release of the first Electricity Market Report, extreme cold, heat and drought have caused serious strains and disruptions to electricity systems across the globe. In response, the IEA said it is establishing an Electricity Security Event Scale to track and classify major power outages, based on the duration of the disruption and the number of affected customers. The power crisis in the US state of Texas in February, where millions of customers were without power for up to four days because of icy weather, was assigned the most severe rating on this scale.
Researched and written by World Nuclear News