Power

Tracking Clean Energy Progress

🕐 Last updated Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Not on track

After falling for three years, emissions in the power sector grew 2.6% in 2017. To be on track to SDS requires reductions of 4% per year on average to 2030. The decline in emission intensity of power generation also stalled in 2017, mainly because of growth in non-abated coal-fired generation. This compares very poorly with a needed decrease of 5.6% per year until 2030 to be on track.


Power sector CO2 emissions

2017 emissions grew 2.6%, but emissions must fall by 4% annually to meet the 2030 SDS target.

	Total	Gas	Coal
2000	9.24	1.76	6.45
2001	9.44	1.84	6.60
2002	9.66	1.93	6.75
2003	10.23	1.99	7.25
2004	10.59	2.09	7.52
2005	11.08	2.18	7.93
2006	11.52	2.25	8.36
2007	12.02	2.36	8.75
2008	11.94	2.42	8.65
2009	11.74	2.42	8.47
2010	12.55	2.63	9.07
2011	13.1	2.67	9.5
2012	13.29	2.78	9.54
2013	13.48	2.71	9.85
2014	13.53	2.73	9.91
2015	13.42	2.83	9.71
2016	13.35	2.96	9.53
2017	13.7	3	9.84
2025	10.31	3.2	6.59
2030	7.72	3.1	4.24
2035	5.22	2.7	2.26
2040	3.69	2.28	1.21
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The power sector was responsible for 42% of all energy-related CO2 emissions in 2017. After falling for three years, emissions increased by 2.6% in 2017. CO2 emissions would need to decline on average by 4% a year until 2030 for the sector to be on track with the SDS targets.

The power sector plays a central role in the clean energy transition, because it is the largest source of energy-related CO2 emissions and because the share of electricity in final energy consumption is rising. The recent decline in the price of some low-carbon power technologies has created considerable opportunities for the expansion of low-carbon power generation.


Carbon intensity of electricity generation in selected regions

Low-carbon generation must become the preferred option in order to meet SDS targets.

	China	India	United States	Southeast Asia	World	European Union
2000	934.3	806.0	598.9	587.0	532.6	401.9
2001	904.9	802.4	630.8	591.4	540.3	396.6
2002	911.0	785.3	581.5	588.9	533.0	401.8
2003	944.0	770.7	585.9	577.1	545.9	405.2
2004	905.5	801.5	584.8	579.2	543.2	393.7
2005	905.3	784.3	582.8	591.5	547.5	391.3
2006	896.4	770.4	560.0	576.9	548.4	392.0
2007	853.8	796.6	568.2	595.9	551.2	397.8
2008	805.5	807.3	550.6	593.5	538.7	373.5
2009	792.1	829.6	521.9	574.7	531.7	353.9
2010	780.9	805.7	527.4	596.5	532.2	345.0
2011	786.2	775.0	507.2	586.2	538.6	348.4
2012	754.6	820.0	484.0	563.5	534.3	347.5
2013	732.3	782.0	486.1	561.2	528.3	328.6
2014	702.0	807.0	482.4	583.4	521.1	313.5
2015	675.6	770.3	452.5	600.2	508.8	306.7
2016	649.6	778.3	425.8	591.7	494.2	285.7
2017					491.0	
2025	504.8	608.1	380.7	558.6	326.6	217.0
2030	457.3	538.5	365.0	529.3	219.6	183.0
2035	415.4	487.2	348.8	507.2	130.1	141.1
2040	376.9	448.4	329.8	489.7	79.8	118.6
    
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The carbon intensity of power generation has been declining since 2010, but stalled in 2017, estimated to remain at 491 gCO2/kWh. This change in the trend was mainly due to global coal generation, which increased by 3% (280 TWh) in 2017, more than offsetting the previous year’s drop.

Still, renewables have been gaining momentum in recent years thanks to strong policy support and rapidly falling costs, especially for solar PV. Along with nuclear, they helped reduce the emissions intensity of the electricity sector as a whole since it peaked in 2007.

To be on track with the SDS scenario, however, the sector’s carbon intensity needs to more than halve by 2030 (to reach 220 gCO2/kWh), a decline of 5.6% a year. By 2040, it needs to reach less than one sixth of current levels (80 gCO2/kWh).

This means low-carbon generation must become the preferred option for meeting new electricity demand, displacing fossil-fueled generation. The falling cost of clean energy technologies can reshape electricity supply but the current state of national electricity systems and local resources will greatly influence the preferred objectives and outcomes. There are also wide regional differences in the carbon intensity, depending on the reliance on fossil fuels, especially coal, for power generation.


Share of electricity generation from power technologies

Low-carbon technologies must make up nearly two-thirds of the power generation mix by 2030.

	Low carbon	Renewables	Unabated fossil fuels	Coal	 Nuclear	Total Plants fitted with CCS
2000	35.2753	18.5365	64.7247	38.8008	16.7389	0.0000
2001	35.0109	18.1005	64.9891	38.6183	16.9104	0.0000
2002	34.4307	18.0152	65.5693	38.9204	16.4155	0.0000
2003	33.2567	17.5674	66.7433	40.0194	15.6893	0.0000
2004	33.5849	17.9972	66.4151	39.5667	15.5877	0.0000
2005	33.2717	18.1651	66.7283	40.0341	15.1066	0.0000
2006	32.9753	18.3103	67.0247	40.6921	14.6651	0.0000
2007	31.7505	18.0590	68.2495	41.3236	13.6915	0.0000
2008	32.2487	18.7404	67.7513	40.8134	13.5083	0.0000
2009	32.9133	19.5376	67.0867	40.1783	13.3757	0.0000
2010	32.6393	19.8178	67.3607	40.3020	12.8215	0.0000
2011	31.8368	20.2020	68.1632	41.1862	11.6348	0.0000
2012	32.0040	21.1613	67.9960	40.4557	10.8427	0.0000
2013	32.5774	21.9665	67.4226	41.2325	10.6109	0.0000
2014	33.3015	22.6647	66.6985	40.6680	10.6332	0.0036
2015	33.6911	23.0802	66.3089	39.3257	10.6073	0.0035
2016	34.8509	24.3061	65.1491	37.4735	10.5414	0.0034
2017	35.4430	25.1294	64.5570	37.4099	10.3136	0.0000
2025	50.2602	37.6409	49.7398	23.2943	12.5090	0.1103
2030	62.8947	47.1974	37.1053	14.6395	14.0619	1.6354
2035	75.6999	56.1937	24.3001	9.2221	14.7992	4.7070
2040	84.0448	62.9901	15.9552	6.0992	14.8550	6.1996
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The share of electricity produced from low-carbon technologies – including renewables, nuclear and carbon capture and storage – is an effective measure of the overall impact on the system. Around one third (35%) of generation came from low-carbon sources in 2017, with the share of renewables reaching 25% and nuclear declining to 10%. In the SDS, the share of generation from low-carbon technologies should increase to nearly two-thirds (63%) in 2030, with wind and solar PV accounting for over 50% of this growth.

Reaching these targets will require a significant shift in the type of capacity added to the power system in coming decades. Renewable technology capacity additions have reached record numbers in 2016 and 2017, with solar PV becoming the most-deployed power-generation technology.

In the SDS, wind and solar PV continue this trend, making up almost 60% of new capacity additions to 2030. Other renewables and nuclear contribute with 17% and 5% of new capacity respectively. CCUS starts being deployed in the late 2020s and accounts for almost 4% of new additions in the period to 2040 with 5% of new generation.

Coal-fired power plants do not disappear in the SDS, but their importance is greatly reduced and most new coal-fired power plants are fitted with CCUS technology from the late 2020s. To meet the SDS target, coal’s share must fall to 15% of global generation in 2030, and decline even faster by 2040 to just 6%.

In the SDS, natural gas replaces coal as a lower-carbon alternative for midload and baseload use in the next decade, serving as a flexible power source to support the integration of variable renewables. The overall level of gas use in the power sector peaks just before 2030 and then declines by more than 3.5% a year below current levels in 2040. Gas-fired power plants would be fitted with CCUS starting in 2025 and reach just over 1% of global gas-fired capacity by 2040.


Share of low-carbon investment in the power sector

An average of 900 billion USD in investment is needed per year to meet SDS goals by 2030.

	Clean power generation	Networks investment	Fossil fuel generation
2012	42.44146565	33.57987358	23.97866077
2013	43.26844873	35.43513935	21.29641191
2014	40.92636377	36.46236417	22.61127206
2015	42.65585715	36.08852044	21.25562241
2016	43.47575571	37.36845606	19.15578822
2017	41.36543794	40.95955692	17.67500514
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Note: Networks includes battery storage

Global investment in the power sector fell by 5% in 2017 to around USD 760 billion, largely driven by a one-third decline in spending on coal-fired power plants. The share of new investment in low-carbon power sources - including renewables and nuclear – was at its highest-ever level, exceeding 70% of total power plant investment. This share has grown quickly from less than 50% a decade ago.

Nevertheless, investment in renewables coming online in 2017 was around USD 300 billion, down by nearly 7% compared with 2016. Solar PV spending rose to record levels, even as costs fell nearly 13%, but was offset by much lower hydropower and onshore wind. The investments associated with nuclear power connected to the grid declined to their lowest level in five years, though more spending was carried out for upgrades to existing plants.

Electricity networks, the backbone and key enabler for the clean-energy transition, accounted for more than 40% of total investment in the electricity sector, up from one-third just five years ago.

Pursuing the SDS trajectory will require the power sector’s rising investment trend to continue, with investments of about USD 12.5 trillion through 2030. An average of USD 900 billion a year should be invested in building new power plants and networks, as well as refurbishing and upgrading ageing infrastructure. Investment in power plants will make up around two-thirds of the total.

Renewables will account for three-quarters of power plant investments. The installation and refurbishment of the infrastructure necessary to transmit and distribute electricity will also require rising investment and will represent well over one third of total investment of the sector throughout the period.


Are power technologies on track?

No power technologies are on track to meet the SDS goals, and two technologies – coal-fired power and carbon capture, utilisation and storage – are well off track. While renewables are making strong progress, particularly solar PV, much more needs to be done to decarbonise the power sector in line with the SDS goals.


Renewable power

In 2017, renewable electricity generation grew by 6% and reached more than a quarter of global power output, thanks to the rapid growth of wind and solar PV technologies. Despite these positive trends, renewable power as a whole needs improvement to meet the SDS targets. Net annual capacity additions for all technologies need to accelerate to ensure renewable generation to increase by 6.5% annually over 2017-30, while the share of renewables in global electricity generation must reach 46% by 2030, from 25% in 2017.

Read more about renewable power
	Low carbon 	Renewables
2000	35.3	18.5
2001	35.0	18.1
2002	34.4	18.0
2003	33.3	17.6
2004	33.6	18.0
2005	33.3	18.2
2006	33.0	18.3
2007	31.8	18.1
2008	32.2	18.7
2009	32.9	19.5
2010	32.6	19.8
2011	31.8	20.2
2012	32.0	21.2
2013	32.6	22.0
2014	33.3	22.7
2015	33.7	23.1
2016	34.9	24.3
2025	50.3	37.6
2030	62.9	47.2
2035	75.7	56.2
2040	82.8	61.8
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Nuclear power

In 2017, new nuclear power capacity dropped sharply to only 3.6 GW. Construction starts, a proxy for final investment decisions, remained low. Declining investment, announced phase-out policies and planned retirements, combined with only 56 GW of nuclear capacity under construction in 2017, suggest that meeting the goal of 185 GW of net increase needed by 2030 will be very challenging. Looming construction decisions by China, India and Russia in 2018-2020 will play a major role in whether nuclear power will meet the SDS targets in 2030 and beyond.

Read more about nuclear power
	SDS Targets	Current fleet with 60 Year Operating Life	Without additional construction	With planned construction
2000		384		
2001		387		
2002		391		
2003		392		
2004		397		
2005		398		
2006		397		
2007		399		
2008		399		
2009		399		
2010		401		
2011		394		
2012		396		
2013		394		
2014		398		
2015		404		
2016		413		
2017		419		
2018		424		
2019		436		
2020		443		
2021		441		
2022		439	439	440
2023			437	440
2024			434	457
2025	491		429	478
2026			427	494
2027			427	509
2028			426	
2029			423	
2030	586		421	
2031			418	
2032			413	
2033			406	
2034			395	
2035	661		387	
2036			376	
2037			370	
2038			358	
2039			352	
2040	720		337	
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Natural gas-fired power

Growth in gas-fired power generation slowed down to 1.6% in 2017, as lower generation in the United States offset growth around the world. At this rate of growth, gas-fired power is not on track to reach the SDS target. As a transition fuel and a flexible power source to facilitate the integration of variable low-carbon renewable generation, gas should follow a growth trajectory until 2027 in Sustainable Development Scenario but declines steadily after this peak.

Read more about natural gas-fired power
	Low-carbon	Gas	Coal
2000	5459	2753	6005
2001	5461	2907	6024
2002	5581	3109	6309
2003	5586	3270	6722
2004	5899	3513	6950
2005	6096	3702	7335
2006	6277	3912	7746
2007	6306	4220	8207
2008	6525	4376	8258
2009	6634	4423	8099
2010	7017	4822	8664
2011	7067	4883	9142
2012	7262	5086	9180
2013	7611	5027	9633
2014	7940	5159	9698
2015	8166	5519	9532
2016	8632	5850	9282
2017	9130	5996	9198
2025	14155	6903	6575
2030	18713	6950	4472
2035	23518	6283	3055
2040	28009	5585	2195
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Coal-fired power

Unabated coal generation (that is, from plants without CCUS) increased by 3% in 2017, more than offsetting the 2016 decline, due mainly to strong growth in Asia and particularly China and India. That said, investments in coal power dropped by one-third in 2017, and final investment decisions for new plants continue to decline. Unabated coal generation needs to decrease by 5.6% per year until 2030 to meet the SDS target.

Read more about coal-fired power

	Share of non-fossil electricity	Share of electricity from coal
2000	35.438	38.855
2001	35.180	38.673
2002	34.604	38.981
2003	33.469	40.082
2004	33.759	39.552
2005	33.447	39.984
2006	33.136	40.691
2007	31.879	41.312
2008	32.350	40.828
2009	32.970	40.234
2010	32.742	40.330
2011	31.923	41.232
2012	32.073	40.461
2013	32.557	41.256
2014	33.298	40.668
2015	33.688	39.326
2016	34.906	37.439
2017	35.444	37.411
2025	50.150	23.294
2030	61.259	14.639
2040	77.845	6.099
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Carbon capture, utilisation and storage in power

With only two large-scale carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) power projects in operation at the end of 2017, with a combined capture capacity of 2.4 million tonnes of CO2 per year, CCUS in power remains well off track to reach the SDS target of 350 million tonnes per year by 2030.

Read more about CCUS in power
	SDS Targets	Existing capacity	Current pipeline
2000		0	
2001		0	
2002		0	
2003		0	
2004		0	
2005		0	
2006		0	
2007		0	
2008		0	
2009		0	
2010		0	
2011		0	
2012		0	
2013		0	
2014		1	
2015		1	
2016		1	
2017		2.4	
2018		2.4	0
2019		2.4	0
2020		2.4	0
2021		2.4	0
2022		2.4	0
2023		2.4	0
2024		2.4	3
2025		2.4	11
2030	350		
2040	1488		
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