Electricity generation from wind and solar rose 15 per cent in 2019. Research done by Ember, a London-based, independent climate think-tank, wind and solar plants around the world accounted for 8 per cent of the world’s electricity, against 3 per cent in 2013.

India contributed its mite, achieving 13 per cent growth in wind+solar electricity — 8 per cent of India’s electricity generation came from these two sources in 2019 — but the big boost to renewable energy came from the EU, which also grew 13 per cent, but on a higher base.

The world produced 270 billion units more wind and solar electricity in 2019, the second fastest growth ever.

Fall of coal

As a corollary to the rise in renewable energy, the report also found a 3 per cent fall in electricity from coal, leading to 2 per cent reduction in CO2 from the power sector. “Both of these are the biggest falls since 1990,” the report says, noting that “carbon-intensity of the global power sector is now 15 per cent lower than in 2010.”

India did well, with a 3 per cent fall in coal-based power, which was due to two factors — weak economic growth and a 14 per cent growth in hydro power generation, thanks to a good monsoon. This has led the authors of the report to comment that India’s decline in coal power could be “a one-off for now”. The country built 8 GW of new coal-power plants and has another 29 GW in the pipeline. Solar power generation increased 27 per cent, while wind did 5 per cent.

China, on the other hand, couldn’t help increasing coal-based power, by 77 TWhr (billion units), which eclipses its good performance in wind and solar. Despite its weakest economic growth in 30 years, energy-hungry China needed 4.7 per cent more electricity. Despite substantial increases in wind, solar and hydro power, the country ended up accounting for 50.2 per cent of global coal-produced electricity.

No less than coronavirus

“Carbon dioxide, which is emitted by coal power plants, is no less dangerous than coronavirus,” says Aarti Khosla, founder and Director of Climate Trends, a Delhi-based firm that specialises in climate-related communication.

The Ember report observes that while progress is being made on reducing coal generation it is “with nothing like the urgency needed to meet global climate goals.”

The lack of urgency is starkly visible in the case of China, which built 43,800 MW of new coal power plants in 2019, closing only 7,000 MW of the old. It produced 4,560 TWhr of electricity from coal plants in 2019.

India contributed the second most (11 per cent) to global coal power. It opened 8,100 MW of new coal plants and shuttered 800 MW of the old. It produced 999 TWhr of electricity from coal.

The handsome rise in wind and solar happened due to record low prices of electricity produced by them. “Record low wind and solar prices in 2019 should give hope that compound growth rates can be maintained,” the report says.

Record solar prices were established in Portugal, where French developer Akuo won a project with a price of $16/MWh. Record wind prices were established in Brazil with a price of $21/MWh.