The Rapid Pace of Renewable Energy Expansions Could Continue

The world’s renewable energy capacity surged in 2020 after “an unprecedented boom” in wind and solar energy. Investors expect this breakneck pace to continue.

According to the International Energy Agency, the world’s renewable energy capacity advanced 45% in 2020, its largest annual rate of increase since 1999, NPR reports.

“An exceptional 90% rise in global wind capacity additions led the expansion,” an IEA report states, citing a 23% expansion in new solar power installations.

In 2020, renewable energy was “the only energy source for which demand increased … while consumption of all other fuels declined,” according to the IEA.

Looking ahead, the IEA projects large capacity gains to maintain their pace in the renewable energy space as we enter a “new normal” in 2021 and 2022, with capacity expansions similar to 2020’s record total.

Bolstering renewable energy, an unprecedented amount of renewable power came online over the fourth quarter of 2020, with China accounting for more than 92 gigawatts of capacity, or more than triple the amount added for the same quarter of 2019. For the first time, China made up 50% of the world’s growth in renewable energy capacity. Meanwhile, the U.S. added 19 gigawatts, compared to the 13.7 it added in the same quarter of the previous year.

However, the IEA warned of a “substantial gap” that persists between emissions from fossil fuel use and the lower levels required to meet limits in the Paris Agreement on climate change by the end of the decade.

“A massive expansion of clean electricity is crucial to enable the world to reach its net zero goals,” IEA head Fatih Birol said, calling on governments to invest more in solar, wind, and other renewables, along with upgrading their electrical grid infrastructures.

Additionally, solar energy development “will continue to break records,” according to the IEA, predicting annual capacity additions will reach 162 gigawatts by the end of next year, or about 50% higher than the solar capacity gains in 2019.

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