Renewable energy consumption has been on a steady rise over the past decade, outpacing all other energy sources. With an average annual growth rate of 12.6%, modern renewables, excluding hydropower and geothermal, have experienced exponential growth. In 2022, renewable energy consumption reached a record high of 45.2 exajoules, a 5.2 exajoule increase from the previous year.
The standout performers in the renewable energy sector have been solar electricity and wind power. In 2022, solar electricity consumption experienced a historic rise with a 25% increase from 2021, surpassing the growth of wind power. While wind power still contributes about 60% more electricity globally than solar power, solar power has been growing at a faster rate, with a 29.3% increase over the past decade compared to wind power’s 14.8% increase.
Together, wind and solar power provided 3,428 TWh of electricity in 2022, a significant increase from the 380 TWh in 2010. This represents a record-breaking 14.4% share of power generation in 2022.
While wind and solar power have been thriving, hydropower has struggled to keep up. Global hydropower consumption in 2022 only increased by 0.7% from the previous year, reaching 40.7 exajoules. This was the first time that hydropower consumption was overtaken by wind and solar power. Hydroelectricity represented 6.7% of the world’s primary energy consumption in 2022, compared to a 7.5% share for wind and solar power.
China has emerged as the top consumer of renewable energy, surpassing the United States over the past decade. The top 10 consumers accounted for 76.0% of global renewable energy consumption in 2022. As renewables continue to grow, the challenge lies in increasing their share in overall energy consumption, which has been rising at a faster pace.
While the growth of renewables is promising, fossil fuels still dominate the energy landscape. The global increase in renewable energy consumption in 2022 was significant but fell slightly short of the increase in global energy demand. It will take time before renewable growth can significantly reduce global fossil fuel consumption.