Nov 10, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Renewables are shrugging off the pandemic as a coal inflection point looms

Reproduced from IEA; Chart: Axios Visuals
Reproduced from IEA; Chart: Axios Visuals

The International Energy Agency has boosted its estimate of renewable power growth this year and now sees installations setting a fresh record.

Why it matters: Wind and solar are proving more resilient to COVID-19 than initially believed as projects and manufacturing "ramped up again quickly" after disruptions in the first half of the year, IEA said.

Driving the news: IEA's new analysis estimates that installed renewable generating capacity will grow by nearly 200 gigawatts this year, which is 18% higher than a previous estimate in May.

IEA also finds that renewables are slated to account for 90% of all new generating capacity additions this year.

What they're saying: "The resilience and positive prospects of the sector are clearly reflected by continued strong appetite from investors," said IEA executive director Fatih Birol.

Where it stands: A big part of this year's growth stems from developers in China and the U.S. rushing to complete projects before incentives lapse, IEA said.

They expect a fresh record next year, with capacity additions jumping in Europe and India, as well as continued recovery from pandemic delays.

Yes, but: IEA's main forecast sees a dip in 2022 thanks to a reduction in incentives in some regions, delayed auctions in Latin America and other forces.

It's a projected slowdown that comes as IEA is among the voices calling for accelerating energy transition to combat climate change.

Two other big findings from IEA's five-year outlook: One is that total installed wind and solar capacity (a reminder that it's not the same thing as actual generation) will surpass natural gas in 2023 and coal in 2024.

The big picture: When all renewables are taken together including hydropower, still the largest renewable generation source, "Renewables will overtake coal to become the largest source of electricity generation worldwide in 2025."

"By that time, they are expected to supply one-third of the world’s electricity," IEA notes. Carbon Brief has more.

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