Technology

The US is boosting gas production as the world shifts to renewable energy

The amount of electricity and greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel power plants are expected to peak in 2023, according to energy think tank Ember’s annual global electricity report. That means, Ember says, that human civilization has likely passed a crucial tipping point: Countries will likely never produce as much electricity from fossil fuels again.

Last year, a record 30 percent of the world’s electricity came from renewable energy sources, largely thanks to growth in solar and wind energy. Starting this year, pollution from the energy sector is likely to decline, with a 2 percent decline in the amount of fossil fuel-powered electricity forecast for 2024 – a decline Ember believes will accelerate in the long term.

“An important turning point in the history of energy”

“The decline in emissions in the energy sector is now inevitable. 2023 was likely the tipping point – a major turning point in the history of energy,” Dave Jones, Ember’s insights director, said in an emailed statement. “But the pace … depends on how quickly the renewable energy revolution advances.”

It’s a transition that could happen much faster if not for the United States, which is already there world’s largest gas producer, with record amounts gas last year. Without the U.S., Ember said, gas-fired power generation would have declined worldwide in 2023. Global economies excluding the United States were able to generate 62 terawatt hours less gas-fired electricity last year compared to the previous year. But the US increased its gas power generation by almost double over the same period, adding another 115 TWh from gas in 2023.

A big part of the problem is that the U.S. is replacing much of its aging power plants that run on coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, with gas-fired power plants instead of carbon-free alternatives. “The U.S. is exchanging one fossil fuel for another,” Jones said. “After two decades of relying so heavily on gas energy, the U.S. has a long way to go to achieve a truly clean energy system.”

According to Ember, the U.S. gets only 23 percent of its electricity from renewables, below the global average of 30 percent.

“The legacy technologies of the last century can no longer compete with the exponential innovation and falling cost curves of renewable energy and storage,” Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said in an emailed statement.

Ember’s report closely aligns with other predictions from the International Energy Agency (IEA), which called for a transition to clean energy.unstoppable” in October. The IEA predict a climax Global demand for coal, gas and oil will increase this decade (for all energy consumption, not just electricity). It was also predicted that renewable energy would account for almost 50 percent of the global electricity mix by 2030.

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