Global renewable energy capacity additions reached a record level last year, exceeding expansion in 2019 by almost 50 percent, according to date from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Worldwide, more than 260 gigawatts of renewable capacity was added last, accounting for more than 80 percent of all electricity expansion, the agency’s annual Renewable Capacity Statistics 2021 report shows.
Solar and wind accounted for 91 percent of new renewables, with 127 GW and 111 GW of new installations, respectively. The agency also attributes renewables’ rising share of the total to net decommissioning of fossil fuel power generation in Europe, North America and – for the first time – across Eurasia, with total fossil fuel additions falling to 60 GW in 2020 from 64 GW the previous year.
“These numbers tell a remarkable story of resilience and hope. Despite the challenges and the uncertainty of 2020, renewable energy emerged as a source of undeniable optimism for a better, more equitable, resilient, clean and just future,” said IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera. “The great reset offered a moment of reflection and chance to align our trajectory with the path to inclusive prosperity, and there are signs we are grasping it. Despite the difficult period, as we predicted, 2020 marks the start of the decade of renewables. Costs are falling, clean tech markets are growing and never before have the benefits of the energy transition been so clear.”
China and the United States led growth last year: China, already the world’s largest market for renewables added 136 GW in 2020, including 72 GW of wind and 49 GW of solar. The US installed 29 GW of renewables last year, nearly 80 per cent more than in 2019, including 15 GW of solar and around 14 GW of wind.
While La Camera hailed the trend toward renewables as unstoppable, there is still “a huge amount to be done,” he warned. “Our 1.5 degree outlook shows significant planned energy investments must be redirected to support the transition if we are to achieve 2050 goals. In this critical decade of action, the international community must look to this trend as a source of inspiration to go further,” he concluded.