Last year, solar and wind energy grew at its fastest rate in 20 years, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The report says this growth in renewables is the “new normal” and is expected to continue in the coming years. New renewable energy sources accounted for 90 percent of the power sector’s global growth last year.
Around the world, 280 gigawatts of renewable electricity power was added to the grid from wind, solar, hydropower and other renewable sources. For some perspective, 280 gigawatts equal about 25% of the total utility-scale electricity generating capacity in the United States.
While solar is still the leading renewable source, wind energy is also expanding rapidly. Global wind capacity almost doubled last year to 114 gigawatts. The U.S. says it wants to expand its offshore wind capacity to 30 gigawatts by 2030 with offshore wind farms on the east and west coasts. Well ahead of the U.S., the U.K. wants to expand its offshore wind capacity to 40 gigawatts by 2030, and the EU is aiming for 60 gigawatts of offshore installations by 2030.
The expansion of wind energy could also be a boost for green jobs and the economy. The Global Wind Energy Council says the wind energy industry could create 3.3 million jobs in the next five years.
This global growth in renewable energy is happening primarily in China, Europe, and the United States. China accounted for half of the new renewable energy capacity in 2020 and will account for 45% in 2021 and 58% in 2022. Europe is accelerating deployment to become the second-largest renewable power market after China.
There are many converging factors contributing to the shift towards renewables. Prices continue to fall with larger economies of scale and technology is constantly improving along with incentives and potential regulatory changes.
Transportation, buildings and manufacturing are all moving towards clean energy. The transition to EVs is also accelerating the need for clean power generation and improved electricity storage and distribution. This shift is also being seen through investment. According to Goldman Sachs, green-energy investing will be the largest area of energy spending in 2021 and exceed investments in oil and gas for the first time.
Renewable energy from the sun and wind has always had far higher potential than fossil fuels to meet global energy demand. A recent Carbon Tracker report says with current technology and in a subset of available locations (0.3% of global land area) we can capture “more than 100 times global energy demand.” The challenge has been that it’s been too expensive to capture, but now that equation has changed. In fact, experts are already predicting 50% lower costs for both onshore and offshore wind than they did in 2015.
Learn more @ Renewable Energy Market Update 2021