90% Of The Global Power Capacity Added In 2020 Was Renewables

The latest data from the International Energy Agency shows promising signs that a “Green recovery” may be materializing. A study from the IEA shows promising signs that renewables have fared far better than fossil fuels during the pandemic. While the crisis sparked sharp declines in oil, gas, and coal, 90% of the global power capacity added in 2020 was renewable electricity, and the pace is set to accelerate in 2021.

“Renewable power is defying the difficulties caused by the pandemic, showing robust growth while other fuels struggle,” IEA Executive Director Dr. Fatih Birol said in a press release.

“The future looks even brighter with new capacity additions on course to set fresh records this year and next.”

Next year, global renewable capacity is set to expand by 10 percent thanks to the European Union and India, with the latter set to double its 2020 expansion.

Overall, this year’s additions will see renewable generation increase by seven percent, despite a five percent drop in energy demand.

One of the most promising signs that this isn’t just a flash in the pan is the fact that stocks in renewable power equipment manufacturers and project developers have been outperforming the overall energy sector as well as major stock market indices.

Heating, for both industrial and domestic purposes, remains the single greatest use of energy worldwide, and modern renewables account for only 11 percent, with the rest dominated by fossil fuels.

Renewable biofuels used in transport, which accounts for 30 percent of total energy use, have also suffered due to reduced demand as economies shrink and fossil fuel prices fall.

Despite the momentum behind renewables, the authors say that continued support from policymakers will be crucial to maintaining it.

A number of key incentives for renewables developers in major markets are set to expire soon, and without clarity from governments over whether or not they will be renewed, 2022 could see a small dip in expansion.

The authors of the study expect sustained policy support for renewables over the next five years, which combined with continued cost reductions should result in strong growth.

“In 2025, renewables are set to become the largest source of electricity generation worldwide, ending coal’s five decades as the top power provider,” says Birol.

“By that time, renewables are expected to supply one-third of the world’s electricity.”

So while governments’ records on promoting a green recovery might be spotty, it seems the momentum behind the renewables industry might mean it’s in the cards anyway.

With the power of exponential growth in energy production, consumption and storage ability, we might be heading into a renewable energy world much soon than many people expected. Continued development of solar and wind energy technologies, as well as the mass adoption of electric cars, and progress in battery storage technology, will be crucial in briging in this new energy world.

Nuclear energy, using next generation reactors with massive improvements in safety and cost efficiency, will also play an important role. A big trend for nuclear energy for the future is small modular reactors that can be made on the production line with high levels of automation, with further will increase the price-performance of nuclear energy, and encourage its mass adoption.