The storm clouds over a bright renewables landscape
Renewable power growth is on pace to set fresh records this year, but the sector — notably U.S. solar developers — nonetheless faces headwinds.
Driving the news: The International Energy Agency, in a new report, sees the addition of roughly 320 gigawatts of generating capacity this year, led by solar and wind.
- On a global basis, the 8% growth in 2022 is a significant boost over its previous forecast.
- Higher commodity and freight prices have pushed solar and wind project costs above pre-COVID levels, yet "their competitiveness actually improves, due to much sharper increases in natural gas and coal prices."
Yes, but: IEA sees growth slowing slightly in 2023 even as clean energy needs to expand much faster to keep climate targets from slipping away.
- "Unless new policies are implemented rapidly, growth remains stable in 2023 because solar PV expansion cannot fully compensate for lower hydropower and steady year-on-year wind additions," IEA said.
Zoom in: IEA's analysis and others this week warned of a big hit to U.S. solar due to the Commerce Department probe of whether Chinese manufacturers are doing an end-run around tariffs.
- It's enough to fuel downward revisions in IEA's U.S. renewables growth estimate.
- "The new investigation and the possibility of additional tariffs compounding procurement challenges in the short term, reducing the availability of solar PV modules," IEA said.
What we're watching: Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo is certain to face questions about the tariff inquiry when she appears before the Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday afternoon.
What they're saying: A new Rystad Energy analysis says a whopping 64% of 2022 U.S. solar additions are "in jeopardy," mostly because of the threat of new tariffs.
Renewables vs. Russian gas
"Wind and solar PV have the potential to reduce the European power sector dependence on Russian gas by 2023," IEA said.
By the numbers: IEA estimates that annually, 100-200 terawatt-hours of EU gas-fired power uses Russian supplies.
- The agency's forecasts "indicate incremental growth of renewable electricity generation up to 180 TWh from 2021-2023."
But the IEA cautions that efficiency measures are also important for displacing Russian gas. And power is just part of the puzzle. Russia provides about 45% of European gas, with lots used for industry and home heating too.
Go deeper: EU Seeks to Boost Solar Energy to Cut Russian Gas, Draft Shows (Bloomberg)