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Global Power Emissions Probably Already Peaked

On exciting electricity trends, Mercedes's EV goals, and cool new solar panels

Global Power Emissions Probably Already Peaked
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Wildfires in India have killed at least five people • A heat wave in Mexico caused rolling blackouts • Central states will get some relief from severe storms as the system weakens and begins moving east today.


1. Global power sector emissions likely peaked last year as renewables surge

I am delighted to start today with some uplifting news. A new Global Electricity Review from climate think tank Ember is positively brimming with encouraging data about the growth of renewables. The topline takeaway? Rapid expansion of wind and solar projects in 2023 likely brought the peak in global power sector emissions, and a “new era of falling fossil fuel generation is imminent.” Key findings and projections:

  • Renewables – mainly solar and wind – provided more than 30% of the world’s electricity last year for the first time.
  • Solar was the fastest-growing source of electricity generation. Wind and solar generation are growing faster than any electricity source in history. (A separate report out yesterday from the U.S. Energy Information Administration found that renewables – especially solar – will cover most of the nation’s electricity growth this year.)
  • More than half of last year’s additions to solar and wind capacity were in China.
  • Hydropower fell due to drought, boosting coal generation. Had this not been the case, emissions from the power sector would already have peaked.
  • EVs, heat pumps, electrolysers, air conditioning, and data centers are key drivers of electricity demand growth.
  • Power sector emissions are expected to fall in 2024. Clean energy growth is forecast to easily cover the expected rise in electricity demand in 2024.

“The renewables future has arrived,” said Dave Jones, Ember’s director of global insights. “Solar, in particular, is accelerating faster than anyone thought possible. The decline of power sector emissions is now inevitable. 2023 was likely the pivot point – peak emissions in the power sector – a major turning point in the history of energy.” But... clean electricity growth has to continue to speed up if we are to meet the COP28 goal of tripling renewables by 2030 to 60% of global supply. In the immortal words of Jeff Goldblum, “must go faster.


2. Vermont lawmakers approve 100% renewable electricity mandate

Vermont’s senate yesterday passed a bill that would require the state’s utilities be powered 100% by renewables by 2035. H.289 would double the amount of renewables utilities are required to build in state; require utilities to provide customers with additional, new renewable energy of any size from anywhere in the region; and yes, require utilities to provide customers with 100% renewable electricity (some by 2030, others by 2035 at the latest). Republican Gov. Phil Scott is expected to veto the bill, but the veto will likely be overturned by the state legislature. The law “represents the largest single move towards renewable electricity and away from fossil fueled power that Vermont has ever taken,” and its emissions-cutting potential would be equivalent to taking up to 250,000 cars off the road, the Sierra Club said in a statement.

3. Venezuela loses its last glacier

Venezuela has become one of the first nations in modern times to lose all its glaciers to melting. The Humboldt glacier, also known as La Corona, was the last of six glaciers in the country. Five melted in 2011, and La Corona has shrunk so much that it’s no longer classified as a glacier, but as an ice field. “The loss of La Corona marks the loss of much more than the ice itself, it also marks the loss of the many ecosystem services that glaciers provide, from unique microbial habitats to environments of significant cultural value,” Caroline Clason, a glaciologist and assistant professor at Durham University, toldThe Guardian. Other countries that could soon be glacier free are Indonesia, Mexico, and Slovenia, according to climatologist and weather historian Maximiliano Herrera.


4. Mercedes backtracks on 2030 EV goals

Mercedes was expected to tell shareholders at its annual general meeting today that the group will abandon its plan to be fully electric by 2030 following sluggish EV sales, and that combustion-engine and hybrid vehicles will continue to be part of the mix “well into the 2030s.” “The transformation might take longer than expected,” CEO Ola Källenius said in prepared remarks, according toBloomberg. The company’s EV deliveries fell by 8% in the first quarter of 2024. “With China not phasing out sales of new combustion-engines until 2060, luxury-car makers still see potential for their legacy products in the world’s biggest auto market,” Bloomberg noted.

5. Austrian company creates ‘terracotta’ red solar panels

This is kind of cool: A company in Austria has created a “terracotta” solar panel that can match the coloring of the red tiles that sit atop many of the country’s buildings, including historic monuments. “We would like to make a contribution to ensuring that monument protection and sustainable energy production go hand in hand,” said Sonnenkraft’s Peter Prasser.


And speaking of rooftop solar, a 450,000-square-foot GAF Energy manufacturing facility opened recently in Texas. The Timberline Solar factory will produce GAF’s nailable solar shingles – essentially solar panels that double as rooftop shingles. The new factory will increase GAF’s capacity by 500%, which Electrekestimates will make the company the world’s largest solar roofing producer.


Beloved British naturalist, biologist, and broadcaster David Attenborough celebrates his 98th birthday today.

Jessica  Hullinger profile image

Jessica Hullinger

Jessica Hullinger is a freelance writer and editor who likes to think deeply about climate science and sustainability. She previously served as Global Deputy Editor for The Week, and her writing has been featured in publications including Fast Company, Popular Science, and Fortune. Jessica is originally from Indiana but lives in London.

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Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Categorizing Crusoe Energy is not easy. The startup is a Bitcoin miner and data center operator. It’s a “high-performance” and “carbon-negative” cloud platform provider. It’s a darling of the clean tech world that’s raised nearly $750 million in funding. The company has historically powered its operations with natural gas, but its overall business model actually reduces emissions. Confused yet?

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Heatmap Illustration/Heirloom Carbon

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