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Japan and South Korea Hit Solar Generation Records in May

Solar and wind power generated a tenth of global electricity in 2021, according to energy think tank Ember.

Solar panels over a farmland in Chiba, Japan, on April 7, 2022. 

Solar panels over a farmland in Chiba, Japan, on April 7, 2022. 

Photographer: Toru Hanai/Bloomberg

Solar power generation in Japan and South Korea expanded to record levels in May, according to the global energy think tank Ember

Locally produced renewable energy is making it increasingly possible for countries to take advantage of lower-priced electricity that is also insulated from volatility and disruptions. The expansion of solar in major Asian economies comes amid global disruptions in coal and natural gas markets triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has sent prices for the fossil fuels skyrocketing.

Electricity produced from sunlight exceeded 10 terawatt hours in May in Japan, or about 15% of the country’s total power generation, according to Ember. In South Korea, solar power generated more than 7% of the nation’s electricity, reaching an all-time high for the month. 

To be sure, both countries still remain highly dependent on dirty fuels: Japan generated about 68% of its power and Korea 56.2% of its electricity from fossil fuels, according to Ember. 

Solar and wind power will need to generate more than 40% of the world’s electricity by 2030 to keep climate change at or below 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, according to the report, which cited the latest analysis from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.