May 11, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Renewables grew at the fastest rate in two decades last year, IEA says

Net renewable capacity additions by technology
Data: IEA; Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios

The International Energy Agency just issued a big upward revision to estimates of near-term global renewable power growth.

Driving the news: The agency's latest data shows that new capacity additions surged to almost 280 gigawatts last year despite the pandemic.

  • That's 45% higher than 2019 and the largest year-over-year jump in two decades.

Why it matters: IEA said that scale of new capacity additions is the "new normal."

  • They project about 270 GW this year and another 280 in 2022, with renewables accounting for 90% of power generating capacity additions globally.
  • Those combined gigawatt levels are 25% higher than their prior projections in November, with IEA boosting forecasts for all major markets.
  • Their 2021–2022 regional outlook sees growth slowing in China — the world's largest market — and slightly in the U.S. compared to 2020, but accelerating in Europe, India and Latin America.

The big picture: "Wind and solar power are giving us more reasons to be optimistic about our climate goals as they break record after record," IEA executive director Fatih Birol said.

Yes, but: The global power system is still dominated by fossil fuels and global emissions are far off track from the Paris Agreement goals.

  • Governments must "build on this promising momentum" with policies that spur even higher investments in renewables and grid infrastructure, Birol said in a statement.
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