It was another record year for renewables, despite the Covid-19 pandemic and rising raw material costs around the world, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Around 290 GW of new renewable power generation capacity, mainly in the form of wind turbines and solar panels, have been installed worldwide this year, breaking the previous record from last year. Based on current trends, the capacity to generate renewable energy will exceed that of fossil fuels and nuclear power combined by 2026.
New climate and energy policies in many countries around the world have spurred growth, with many governments setting higher ambitions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions ahead of and during the United Nations Cop26 climate summit. in Glasgow last month.
However, this level of growth is still only about half of that required to achieve net zero carbon emissions by mid-century.
Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the IEA, said: “The record renewable energy additions this year are another sign that a new global energy economy is emerging. The high commodity and energy prices we see today pose new challenges for the renewable energy industry, but high fossil fuel prices also make renewables even more competitive.
Renewable energy will account for around 95% of the increase in global power generation capacity by the end of 2026, according to the IEA report released on Wednesday, with solar power alone providing around half of the increase.
Commodity prices have increased as the world emerges from the Covid pandemic and as a result of rising energy prices around the world. These price increases offset part of the cost reductions of recent years in the renewable energy sector. If they continue into the next year, the cost of wind power will return to levels last seen in 2015, and two to three years of falling solar power costs will be wiped out.
Heymi Bahar, lead author of the report, said commodity prices were not the main obstacles to growth, however. Wind and solar would still be cheaper than fossil fuels in most areas, he noted. Permission was the main obstacle to new wind power projects around the world, and policy measures were needed to expand the use of solar power for consumers and industry.
“We need a gear shift to get to net zero,” he said. “We have already seen a very big shift in gears in recent years, but now we need to take it up a notch. It’s possible, we have the tools. Governments need to be more ambitious, not only on goals, but also on policy measures and plans. “
China has installed the largest renewable energy capacity this year and is now expected to reach 1,200 GW of wind and solar capacity in 2026, four years ahead of its 2030 target. China is the world’s largest carbon emitter , but the government was reluctant at Cop26 to commit to strengthening its emission reduction targets, which many observers had hoped for.
China is targeting a peak in emissions by 2030, which many analysts say is far too late if the world is to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 ° C above pre-industrial levels, the objective of the Paris agreement which was at the center of the COP26 talks.
Birol said the rapid expansion of renewables in China suggested the country could peak in emissions “well before 2030”.
India, the world’s third-largest emitter, has also seen strong growth in its renewable energy capacity over the past year, but its target – set at Cop26 – of reaching net zero by 2070 is also considered too weak by many. Birol said, “The growth of renewable energy in India is exceptional, supporting the recently announced government target of reaching 500 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030 and highlighting India’s wider potential for accelerate its transition to clean energy.