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Fossil fuels maintain grip on market: report

Smoke and steam billows from Belchatow Power Station, Europe's largest coal-fired power plant operated by PGE Group, at night near Belchatow, Poland December 5, 2018. (Reuters-Yonhap)
Smoke and steam billows from Belchatow Power Station, Europe's largest coal-fired power plant operated by PGE Group, at night near Belchatow, Poland December 5, 2018. (Reuters-Yonhap)

PARIS (AFP) -- Fossil fuels have held their share of the energy mix over the past decade, a report published Tuesday found, despite a drop in the cost of electricity from renewable wind and solar.

Coal, oil and gas -- fossil fuels which are the main cause of global warming, accounted for 80.2 percent of final energy consumption in 2019, according to a report by the REN21 think tank.

That compared with 80.3 percent in 2009.

That doesn‘t mean renewables didn’t increase: they rose by almost five percent per year. The share of modern renewables such as wind and solar power in final energy consumption rose from from 8.7 to 11.2 percent.

But consumption of fossil fuels also rose in absolute terms.

The think tank noted that while a growing number of countries have set net zero carbon emissions targets, pandemic recovery programmes have chosen fossil fuels over renewables.

“Following announcements of funding for a green economic recovery, taking public spending to levels higher than the Marshall Plan after World War II,

2020 should have been the year when the world pushed the reset button for the global climate economy and renewables,” the group said in a statement accompanying the report.

“Instead of driving transformation, recovery packages provide six times more investment to fossil fuels than to renewable energy ... despite all the promises made during the Covid-19 crisis,” it added.

The think tank‘s chief, Rana Adib, said the fact that at $555 billion, fossil fuel subsidies in 2019 were double the amount of green energy investment belied governmental promises of climate action.

Considerable progress is being made in the electricity sector, where 356 gigawatts of renewable production were added in 2020, beating the previous record by nearly 30 percent.

In a growing number of areas, including in parts of China, the EU, United States and India, it is already cheaper to build new solar or wind farms than continue to use existing coal facilities, noted REN21.

“Governments shouldn’t be satisfied with supporting renewable energy but quickly shutting down fossil fuel power plants,” said Adib.

She urged countries to adopt energy performance targets to accelerate the transition to renewables.

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