It’s one of the biggest changes in global energy supply, the rise of renewables. Growing from 1% of energy consumption in 2006 to more than 3% today. Low carbon energy sources, including nuclear and hydro power, as well as wind and solar, make up a total of 14%.
But are renewable energy sources growing fast enough? More than 175 countries ratified the Paris Climate Agreement to keep global warming well below 2 degrees. Most scientists agree that means man-made carbon emissions need to start falling as soon as possible and reach zero by the end of the century.
But, for now, despite the growth in renewables, global emissions are still rising. And the International Energy Agency estimates that energy demand will increase 30% between now and 2040. That’s the equivalent of another China and another India.
The IEA predicts that renewables will account for 40% of power generation by 2040. Solar power will be the cheapest form of electricity. But without drastic policy changes, global emissions will continue to rise. The most ambitious plans involve not just cutting emissions, but creating negative emissions.
That means sucking carbon out of the atmosphere, planting trees, using biomass in construction, or treating the ocean with alkali. Many of these methods have not been tried on a large scale. But 20 years ago, neither had wind or solar.