The world’s capacity to generate electricity from renewable technologies is on course to accelerate, with 2021 expected to set a fresh all-time record for new installations.
This is according to the latest report released by the International Energy Agency (IEA), which emphasizes that despite rising costs for key materials used to make solar panels and wind turbines, additions of new renewable power capacity this year are forecast to rise to 290GW in 2021.
The report expects record growth for renewables to take place despite today’s high commodity and transport prices.
However, should commodity prices remain high through the end of next year, the cost of wind investments would go back up to levels last seen in 2015 and three years of cost reductions for solar PV would be erased.
“This year’s record renewable electricity additions of 290 gigawatts are yet another sign that a new global energy economy is emerging,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “The high commodity and energy prices we are seeing today pose new challenges for the renewable industry, but elevated fossil fuel prices also make renewables even more competitive.”
The IEA’s annual Renewables Market Report finds that by 2026, global renewable electricity capacity is forecast to rise more than 60% from 2020 levels to over 4,800GW – equivalent to the current total global power capacity of fossil fuels and nuclear combined.
Other key report findings include:
Renewables are set to account for almost 95% of the increase in global power capacity through 2026, with solar PV alone providing more than half.
China remains the global leader in the volume of capacity additions: it is expected to reach 1200GW of total wind and solar capacity in 2026.
India is set to come top in terms of the rate of growth, doubling new installations compared with 2015-2020.
Deployments in Europe and the United States are also on track to speed up significantly from the previous five years. These four markets together account for 80% of renewable capacity expansion worldwide.
Solar PV remains the powerhouse of growth in renewable electricity, with its capacity additions forecast to increase by 17% in 2021 to a new record of almost 160 GW.
Despite rising prices limiting growth, global biofuel demand in 2021 is forecast to surpass 2019 levels, rebounding from last year’s huge decline caused by the pandemic.
The report recommends governments further accelerate the growth of renewables by addressing key barriers, such as permitting and grid integration challenges, social acceptance issues, inconsistent policy approaches, and insufficient remuneration.
The report is available for download.