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Record renewable capacity added in 2020

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Image: IRENA

According to data published by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the world added more than 260 GW of renewable energy capacity last year, almost tripling the volume added in 2019.

Despite the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, global renewable energy capacity adds in 2020 exceeded prior projections and all previous records.

According to IRENA’s annual Renewable Capacity Statistics 2021, renewable energy’s share of all new generating capacity increased significantly for the second year in a row. Renewables accounted for more than 80% of all new power capacity installed last year, with solar and wind responsible for 91% of new renewables.

The growing share of renewables in the total is attributed in part to net decommissioning of fossil fuel power production in Europe, North America, and, for the first time, across Eurasia (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russian Federation and Turkey). Total fossil fuel adds dropped to 60 GW in 2020, down from 64 GW the previous year, indicating a continuing downward trend in fossil fuel growth.

“These numbers tell a remarkable story of resilience and hope. Despite the challenges and the uncertainty of 2020, renewable energy emerged as a source of undeniable optimism for a better, more equitable, resilient, clean and just future. The great reset offered a moment of reflection and chance to align our trajectory with the path to inclusive prosperity, and there are signs we are grasping it. Despite the difficult period, as we predicted, 2020 marks the start of the decade of renewables.

“Costs are falling, clean tech markets are growing and never before have the benefits of the energy transition been so clear. This trend is unstoppable, but as the review of our World Energy Transition Outlook highlights, there is a huge amount to be done. Our 1.5 degree outlook shows significant planned energy investments must be redirected to support the transition if we are to achieve 2050 goals. In this critical decade of action, the international community must look to this trend as a source of inspiration to go further.”

Francesco La Camera, IRENA Director-General.

The 10.3% increase in installed capacity outperforms long-term patterns of more moderate year-on-year growth. Global renewable generation capacity stood at 2799 GW at the end of 2020, with hydropower still responsible for the lion’s share (1211 GW), while solar and wind are catching up quickly. With 127 GW and 111 GW of new installations for solar and wind, respectively, the two contingent renewables dominated power growth in 2020.

From 2020, China and the United States became the two most promising development markets. China, now the world’s largest renewables market, added 136 GW last year, with 72 GW of wind and 49 GW of solar accounting for the majority. Last year, the United States built 29 GW of renewables, about 80% more than in 2019. This included 15 GW of solar and about 14 GW of wind.

Africa expanded rapidly with a growth of 2.6 GW, marginally more than in 2019, while Oceania remains the fastest growing region (+18.4 percent), despite its limited share of global capacity and nearly all growth occurring in Australia.

Nedim Husomanovic

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