IEA increases estimated growth in renewables

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has upped its estimations of global renewable energy growth through to 2020, with a new "accelerated case" scenario forecasting a 25% higher rate of growth than previous IEA reports.

The organisation’s Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report for 2015, released this week, claims that cumulative renewable power could increase, from 130GW being added in 2014 – an all-time record – to around 160GW being added in 2020. (Scroll down for full report). 

By contrast, the IEA’s 2014 mid-term report had envisaged a flattening out of renewable energy capacity additions, with additions in 2020 projected to hit just north of 120GW.

This new “accelerated case” scenario (the green line in Figure 1) is driven by “a stronger embrace of the energy security, local pollution and climate benefits,” according to the 2015 report, but “policymakers would need to send clearer signals to phase out the oldest and most polluting power plants” in order to reach such heights. 

IEA executive director Fatih Birol said: “Renewables are poised to seize the crucial top spot in global power supply growth, but this is hardly time for complacency. Governments must remove the question marks over renewables if these technologies are to achieve their full potential, and put our energy system on a more secure, sustainable path.”

The report concludes that renewables will represent “the largest single source of electricity growth over the next five years”, claiming a 26% share of the world’s electrical power supply by 2020. 

It breaks down individual methods of providing renewable energy, concluding that onshore wind is the highest growing market, providing over one-third of renewable capacity and generation increase. Solar PV provides just under a third, with hydropower accounting for one-fifth on new additions.


In terms of deployment costs, the IEA suggests that onshore wind costs could fall by a further 10% by 2020, with PV solar costs potentially falling by 25%. This chimes with a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance released earlier in the week, which found that renewables are fast-becoming “fully cost-competetive” with fossil fuels. 

The IEA claims its reports “aim to contribute to market transparency through a comprehensive analysis of recent trends and future prospects”. However, the organisation has come under increased scrutiny of late due to an apparent underestimation of the growth of renewables.

Last month, the Energy Watch Group claimed the IEA was publishing misleading World Energy Outlook reports. The watchdog pointed to the IEA’s prediction that renewable energy would provide only 14% of global electricity supply by 2030, when the actual figure should have been closer to 60%.

Matt Mace

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