Recently, two senior researchers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) published an article in the Journal of Photovoltaics, analyzing changes in the global electricity supply.
Nancy Haegel and Sarah Kurtz collected information from various sources to identify significant trends in worldwide electricity generation. This is the third installment of their annual series, which began in 2021.
Fossil energy continues to dominate the majority of global electricity generation, providing around 38% of the world’s electricity in 2022, similar to the previous year. However, there is an increasing pace of change in the global electricity system.
Renewable energy sources accounted for a significant majority of new projects. Renewables composed approximately 85% of new electricity generation capacity in 2022.
As shown in the image below, solar energy emerged as the largest new source, constituting 56% of the new capacity. This pattern reflects the consistent growth of renewable energy in recent years.
New electricity generation capacity globally by year. Source: Journal of Photovoltaics
Despite challenges such as supply chain issues, solar energy systems have accounted for over 50% of new electricity generation capacity for two consecutive years. Solar is now the fastest-growing generation technology, with 25% of the total installed capacity added in 2022 alone.
The overall contribution of solar energy to global electricity generation increased from around 3.6% in 2021 to about 4.5% in 2022.
Over the past three years, carbon-free generation sources, including nuclear, hydropower, solar, and wind, have constituted more than 80% of capacity expansions. The majority of this expansion has been driven by solar and wind. Together, these sources have contributed more than 75% of capacity growth during this period.
In an interview with CleanTechnica, study co-author Sarah Kurtz said, “It’s possible that carbon-free energy sources will soon consistently supply almost all of our new generation capacity.”
Solar energy accounted for 56% of new electricity generation capacity in 2022, yet it only contributed approximately 5% of global electricity generation. This discrepancy underscores both the substantial progress solar energy has made thus far, and the further growth required to achieve a sustainable energy future.
Noteworthy electric grids in various regions, such as California, South Australia, and Hawaii, have already achieved or exceeded 20% generation from solar energy.