1 in 5 new car sales globally were EVs in 2023, and that’s curbed oil demand – IEA

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Without EVs, solar, wind, and nuclear, the global rise in emissions in the last five years would have been three times larger, new International Energy Agency (IEA) analysis shows.

The new findings come from the IEA’s annual update on global energy-related CO2 emissions and the just-released inaugural edition of the IEA’s new series, the Clean Energy Market Monitor, which will track clean energy deployment and broadly outline the implications for global energy markets.

Renewables curbed emissions rise in 2023

The bad news is that energy-related emissions rose in 2023. But the good news is that continued expansion of clean energy technologies meant that global energy-related emissions rose less strongly than in 2022, even as total energy demand growth accelerated.

Emissions increased by 410 million tonnes, or 1.1%, in 2023 – compared with a rise of 490 million tonnes the year before – taking them to a record level of 37.4 billion tonnes.

An exceptional shortfall in hydropower due to extreme droughts in the US, China, and several other economies resulted in over 40% of the rise in emissions in 2023 as countries turned largely to fossil fuels to plug the gap. Had it not been for the unusually low hydropower output, global emissions from electricity generation would have declined in 2023, making the overall rise in energy-related emissions significantly smaller.

Advanced economies saw a record fall in their emissions in 2023 even as their GDP grew. Their emissions dropped to a 50-year low while coal demand fell back to levels not seen since the early 1900s.

It was a combination of strong renewables deployment, coal-to-gas switching, energy efficiency improvements, and softer industrial production that drove the decline in advanced economies’ emissions, reports the IEA.

Last year was the first in which at least half of electricity generation in advanced economies came from such low-emissions sources as renewables and nuclear.

Clean energy’s impact over the last 5 years

From 2019 to 2023, growth in clean energy was twice as large as that of fossil fuels. The new IEA analysis shows that the deployment of clean energy in the past five years has substantially limited increases in demand for fossil fuels, laying the groundwork to accelerate the transition away from them this decade.

The deployment of wind and solar in electricity systems worldwide since 2019 has been sufficient to avoid an amount of annual coal consumption equivalent to that of India and Indonesia’s electricity sectors combined – and to dent annual natural gas demand by an amount equivalent to Russia’s pre-war natural gas exports to the EU.

The growing number of EVs on the roads, accounting for 1 in 5 new car sales globally in 2023, also played a significant role in keeping oil demand (in terms of energy content) from rising above pre-pandemic levels.

“The clean energy transition has undergone a series of stress tests in the last five years – and it has demonstrated its resilience,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol. “A pandemic, an energy crisis, and geopolitical instability all had the potential to derail efforts to build cleaner and more secure energy systems. Instead, we’ve seen the opposite in many economies.”

Read more: Utility solar dethrones coal as the cheapest power source in Asia


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