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Despite the pandemic, renewable energy grew in 2020

Renewable energy usage has increased at an annual pace of 13.4 percent on average during the last decade. Renewables were the only energy source that grew by double digits globally over the last decade. To put things in perspective, the globe consumed 9.6 exajoules of the renewable energy in 2010. That figure had increased to 31.7 exajoules by 2020.

Wind power, geothermal energy, solar power, biofuels, and biomass-based electricity are all included in the “Renewables” category. The research goes on to break down renewable energy usage into only electricity production (i.e., not including biofuels), which accounts for 88 percent of total renewable energy consumption.

“Hydroelectricity” is listed as a different category in the Review. This is because hydroelectricity is a mature form of energy production with a significantly slower worldwide growth rate than newer renewables such as solar power. In 2020, global hydropower usage was 38.2 exajoules, but still more than wind and solar combined. On the other hand, hydropower has a 10-year average yearly growth rate of only 2.1 percent, compared to 13.4 percent for other renewables.

In 2020, hydroelectricity accounted for 6.9% of global primary energy consumption, compared to 5.7 percent for modern renewables. Wind (50.6 percent) and solar (27.2 percent) accounted for the majority of the consumption in the Renewable Power category. Although wind power continues to have a solid lead over solar power, solar power consumption is growing at about double the pace of wind power. It is on track to overtake wind power as the dominant source of renewable energy this decade.

In 2018, China surpassed the United States as the world’s largest user of renewable energy, and it continues to expand its lead. Not only does China lead the world in overall renewable energy consumption, but its 10-year growth rate outpaces the rest of the Top 10. In 2020, the Top 10 customers accounted for 75.9% of global renewable energy consumption.

Despite renewables’ rapid rise, it’s vital to remember that overall world energy use is increasing. Despite a 21-exajoule increase in worldwide renewable energy consumption over the last decade, overall energy usage has climbed by 51 exajoules. The majority of this rise was due to increased fossil fuel consumption, with every class of fossil fuel exhibiting an increase in usage over the decade (although coal’s growth was close to zero).

As a result, while renewables have contributed to lower CO2 emissions, worldwide CO2 emissions have increased due to the total rate of growth of fossil energy use. On the other hand, renewable energy consumption grew faster than whole energy consumption in 2020, owing to the drop in overall energy consumption. As a result, worldwide carbon dioxide emissions dropped by 6.3 percent in 2020.

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