Renewables will overtake gas and coal globally in 2024, IEA predicts

China (pictured) and the US led the way for installations in 2020

The Agency’s ‘Renewables 2020’ analysis states that the Covid-19 pandemic has “hurt” but not “halted” exponential growth in the clean energy sector, with almost 90% of the new generation capacity due to be deployed in 2020 being renewable – equivalent to 1,123GW. Globally, renewable electricity generation capacity will likely be 7% higher at the end of 2020 than the end of 2019.

China and the US are driving these trends, the IEA claims. It believes that wind and solar additions in both nations will be 30% higher in 2020 than in 2019, with solar accounting for the majority of growth. Europe’s recovery is likely to happen during 2021, according to the data.

These trends are far more promising for the sector than the IEA predicted at its progress update in May. The body states that the industry has “adapted quickly to the challenges of the Covid crisis”, with installations and manufacturing “ramping up quickly” since summer and supply chain challenges having been “mostly resolved”.

The analysis looks ahead through to 2025, taking the impacts of the pandemic so far into account as well as the likely residual impacts in the future. It predicts that renewables will be the largest source of electricity generation worldwide within five years and supply more than one-third of the world’s electricity in this timeframe. Since the 1970s, coal has been the top power provider globally.

Just last year, the IEA only expected renewable output to overtake coal within five years under its “accelerated case” scenario, which took optimistic predictions on government ambitions and corporate actions into account. Now, it sees the wind, solar, hydro and biomass sectors growing exponentially in the wake of Covid-19

This is a first for the IEA and follows criticism from climate campaigners and investors. The Agency has taken the recent commitments to net-zero emissions by 2050 in Japan and South Korea, and by 2060 in China, into account.

“While it is too early to assess their precise impacts, these stated ambitions are very likely to further accelerate the deployment of renewables across all sectors, with potentially significant effects on global markets,” the report states.

Spotlight on biofuels

The new analysis specifically highlights that the biofuel sector is likely to experience a slower recovery than wind, solar and hydro – largely because its main application is in transport. Transport demands are likely to remain lower than 2019 levels through to 2023 by some estimations.

2020, the IEA claims, has seen the first annual decline in biofuel demand and production in more than two decades. Production is likely to be 12% lower in 2020 than in 2019, which was a record year.

Sarah George

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