Electricity plays an integral role in modern society. Just about everything in our daily lives uses it. And with the push for electrification strengthening, items that don’t typically need electricity now do. Thus the energy demand is increasing rapidly.
Unfortunately, the world just can’t handle the increase in demand, especially when thinking about climate change. According to the latest report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), electricity demand increased by 6% in 2021.
The increase in demand has put a strain on utilities around the world, especially in China.
Does This Mean Electrification Is Bad?
Not really, but It does really depend on where that energy comes from.
For example, there’s a big difference in emissions if you are using energy from solar versus a coal plant. And many of the items that are being electrified have huge environmental benefits, like electric vehicles or home heating systems.
In comparison, those items would be burning gas and oil respectively. The real issue is when the demand exceeds what the grid can produce. This ends up resulting in the grid needing to generate more power, which typically means more fossil fuels.
China is a great example of this. Energy demand increased by 10% in this country alone, which resulted in China building three times as many new coal plants as the rest of the world combined. And as you guessed, it also means that emissions are rising.
But China isn’t alone. In 2021, coal-generated power spiked by 19% in the United States. Because it is easy to scale up, it helps the grid compensate for more demand. This is a big problem as renewables cannot be deployed fast enough.
Is Electrification to Blame for the Increase in Energy Demand?
The report outlines that the main driving force behind this increase is the economic recovery efforts. Demand for just about everything has increased significantly, which means more things are being produced.
The report also highlighted that an especially cold winter in 2021 had a huge impact as more heating was required.
While more devices are becoming electric, developed nations account for this and increase output accordingly. This only becomes a problem when the demand outpaces the growth, which only happens under special circumstances.
Unfortunately, nations are not spending enough to create renewable sources fast enough.
What Is the Impact on Emissions?
During this year, renewable energy generation increased by 6%, but that wasn’t enough to keep emissions from growing.
During the same period of time, coal energy grew by 9% due to natural gas prices increasing substantially as a result of the US reducing its output. This resulted in a total emission increase for the energy sector by 7%.
This outcome demonstrates that the world really isn’t committed to fighting climate change as the first priority. Nations will not hesitate to increase fossil fuel usage in response to higher demand.
And as the pandemic will seemingly continue throughout this year, this trend in energy demand is likely to continue and even worsen.
Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.