Tuesday, 11 May 2021
The amount of renewable electricity capacity added rose by 45% in 2020 to 280 gigawatts (GW), at its fastest rate as well as the largest year-on-year increase in two decades, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency.
The increase in 2020 is set to become the “new normal”, with about 270 GW of renewable capacity on course to be added in 2021 and almost 280 GW in 2022, despite a slowdown in China due to brisk growth in Europe and the United States. Those forecasts have been revised upwards by more than 25% from the IEA’s previous estimates in November as governments around the world have auctioned record levels of renewable capacity and companies have signed record-level power purchase agreements, even as the pandemic spread macroeconomic uncertainties and suppressed demand. However, IEA noted that CO2 emissions are set to rise this year because of a parallel rise in coal use, underscoring the major policy changes and investments in clean energy needed to meet climate goals.
Global wind capacity additions almost doubled last year to 114 GW. That growth will slow down a bit in 2021 and 2022, but the increases will still be 50% larger than the average expansion during the 2017-19 period. Solar PV installations will continue to break new records, with annual additions forecast to reach over 160 GW by 2022. That would be almost 50% higher than the level achieved in 2019 prior to the pandemic, affirming solar’s position as the “new king” of global electricity markets.
Transport biofuel production declined 8% globally in 2020 as the pandemic limited travel. Production is expected to recover this year to 2019 volumes and expand another 7% in 2022 as biodiesel and hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) production increases globally and ethanol expands in India.
However, the ongoing effects of the Covid-19 crisis on demand, and price competition for sugar cane from sweetener manufacturers in Brazil, continue to keep ethanol production in both the United States and Brazil below 2019 levels. At the same time, global HVO production capacity is expected to nearly double in the next two years, significantly expanding the capability of producing biofuels from waste and residue feedstocks.
“Wind and solar power are giving us more reasons to be optimistic about our climate goals as they break record after record. Last year, the increase in renewable capacity accounted for 90% of the entire global power sector’s expansion,” said Fatih Birol, the Executive Director of the IEA. “Governments need to build on this promising momentum through policies that encourage greater investment in solar and wind, in the additional grid infrastructure they will require, and in other key renewable technologies such as hydropower, bioenergy and geothermal. A massive expansion of clean electricity is essential to giving the world a chance of achieving its net-zero goals.’’