Power sector announces clean energy breakthrough

The road to a fully decarbonized electricity system is clear. We must rapidly phase out fossil fuels whilst simultaneously accelerating our expansion of renewables. The transition to clean power is the crucial foundation of the energy transition, and achievement of the Race to Zero breakthrough ambition is a key step forward in achieving our sector goal of net zero. By Climate Champions | September 17, 2021

Power drives many of our daily tasks, from home working, to cooking and transport. The word power is often drastically simplified when imagined in a consumer’s mind as a power plant, or an electricity line leading to sockets in the home, however it is intertwined and disguised in the use and making of most of the commodities we know today. Behind your daily coffee is a network of energy use, from the grinding of coffee and boiling hot water to the refrigeration of milk.

We use it subconsciously and it is central to the way we live our lives. The power sector accounts for an estimated 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions, primarily through coal but also gas and oil. Behind our home working, transport or daily coffee are invisible emissions. We must have a breakthrough.

The power sector plays a critical role in reaching net zero, but also provides a route to decarbonization, through electrification, for other sectors such as transport and the built environment. Good progress has already been made in some countries in replacing coal through the growing expansion of renewable power and increasing energy efficiency. Furthermore, whilst the energy transformation has been significantly aided by the reduction in cost of key technologies, more can still be done.

Renewables are now the cheapest option for new power generation for most countries globally. Over the last decade, the cost of solar has decreased 80% and wind by 55%, enabling further deployment at scale. As a result, the compound annual growth rate of solar and wind power has been 35% and 14% respectively. Supported by grid integration through storage, green hydrogen and demand side management, renewable electricity is undisputedly the future of power. We have the solutions, we now must accelerate the expansion and drive change.

2030 Breakthrough in clean power 

In January 2021, the 2030 Breakthroughs were launched, outlining the key tipping points needed in every sector by 2030. Our first aim was to reach ‘Breakthrough Ambition’ in each sector, meaning 20% of key actors joining the Race to Zero – the world’s largest collection of credible net zero commitments.

Today, at the launch of New York Climate Week, we announce that the power sector has achieved this Breakthrough Ambition, with over 20% of major utilities by revenue now members of the Race to Zero. In recent months companies joining the Race to Zero, and therefore contributing to the Breakthrough, have included National Grid, EON, Engie, RWE, Vistra, ReNew Power and Kenya Electricity Generating Company. They join over 200 companies in the sector from across the world that have joined the Race to Zero and made commitments to be net zero by 2050 at the very latest. These commitments, backed by science-based targets, are crucial in driving down the sectors’ emissions and winning the Race to Zero.

Our Race to Zero members are driving the acceleration in renewables deployment and phasing out fossil fuel generation. Achievement of the breakthrough highlights the climate action momentum building among actors, enabling a breakaway from business-as-usual. Together, their efforts highlight future thinking, ambition, and commitment to a cleaner future.

Hear from key Race to Zero members in the power sector on achieving breakthrough ambition:

Sector breakthrough cannot happen through actors working in isolation, we must work together to achieve our ambitious goals. Achievement of the breakthrough is supported by actions of other actors in the ecosystem – growth in the number of demand side corporates committing to sourcing 100% clean power (e.g. via RE100), finance actors committing to exiting coal funding and policy makers setting clean power targets. As we raise ambition towards COP26 in the power sector, it is important all groups work together to help achieve our collective Race to Zero emissions.

Turning the ambition into outcome is the next step. We must now work together to deliver urgent action in delivering a decarbonized global electricity system by 2040. The 2030 Breakthrough Outcome highlights the next goal is to expand solar and wind power to make up at least 40%, and all renewables to make up at least 60%, of global electricity generation by 2030. The solutions we need exist, the next step is to expand and scale the technologies.

As we work towards limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees, we need everybody in. Are you?