IEA: Renewable energy to account for 90% of new power expansion post-Covid-19

Pictured: Solar infrastructure in Shanghai

The Agency’s 2021 Renewable Energy Market Update, published this week, reveals that 280 GW of new renewable energy generation capacity was installed globally during the 2020 calendar year – a 45% increase on the amount installed during 2019. Renewable electricity generation and biofuel generation for transport are covered by these calculations.

According to the Update, 45% is the steepest year-on-year increase in capacity in three decades. When the increase is broken down by generation method, wind capacity additions fared best, with a 90% increase. Polar PV, meanwhile, saw a 50% increase.

The IEA is predicting that the wind market’s growth will slow this year, but remain higher than the 2017-2019 average.

Solar PV, meanwhile, is likely to continue growing rapidly, as major generating nations including China and the US strive to lay the groundwork for meeting updated climate targets. Previous IEA analyses forecast that solar would experience a “boom” post-pandemic, with nations making use of the falling costs of solar in developing ‘green recovery’ plans.

Biofuel was the only energy type assessed to have experienced a dip in supply and demand in 2020. The year-on-year decrease in production by volume was 8%. The IEA is expecting production and demand to rebound to 2019 levels this year, and then to grow a further 7% in 2022.

“Renewables were the only energy source for which demand increased in 2020 despite the pandemic, while consumption of all other fuels declined,” the report states, alluding to the IEA’s market updates on oil and gas.

It adds that “exceptionally high capacity additions” for renewable electricity will  “become the new normal in 2021 and 2022”.

These conclusions chime with a broader IEA report, published late last year, which predicted that global wind and solar capacity will double by 2025.

Energy transition

The report comes shortly after an early draft of the EU’s upcoming renewable energy directive was leaked to media representatives.

According to the draft, the bloc will set an objective of sourcing 38-40% of its energy from renewables by 2030. This is around double the current proportion. A revised and finalised version of the directive will be presented to members of the European Commission in July.

The UK could also be set for new renewable energy targets, after adopting the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) Sixth Carbon Budget. The Budget will require the UK to slash net emissions by 78% by 2035. Trade body RenewableUK is arguing that, if this target is to be met, the UK will need to adopt legally binding targets for scaling up generation.

Sarah George

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