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What ‘transition’? Renewable energy is growing, but overall energy demand is growing faster

  • The rise in the renewable energy that’s available is still lower than the rise in global energy demand overall.
  • The shortfall between renewable energy supply and power demand will only widen as economies reopen and travel resumes, with demand already spiking to pre-pandemic levels.
  • A “common ground solution” would be to use traditional fuels as a backup when renewables fail to carry through.
Wind turbines in waters off the coast of the U.K.
Wind turbines in waters off the coast of the U.K.
Lakeland-Photos | iStock | Getty Images

The world wants to “transition” away from fossil fuels toward green energy, but the difficult reality is this: Dirty fuels are not going away — or even declining — anytime soon.

The total amount of renewable energy that’s available is growing. That’s good news for a world threatened by potentially devastating climate change.

But the increase in renewable energy is still lower than the increase in global energy demand overall. A “transition” from fossil fuels may come someday, but for now, renewable energy isn’t even keeping pace with rising energy demand — so fossil fuel demand is still growing.

“The global power market is experiencing rapid power demand growth as markets recover from the pandemic. Despite all the capacity additions in renewables generation, the amount of power currently generated by renewables is still not enough to meet this increased demand,” Matthew Boyle, manager of global coal and Asia power analytics at S&P Global Platts, told CNBC.

The global supply of renewables will grow by 35 gigawatts from 2021 to 2022, but global power demand growth will go up by 100 gigawatts over the same period, according to Boyle. Countries will have to tap traditional fuel sources to meet the rest of the demand. A gigawatt is 1 billion watts.

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