Global renewable energy capacity surged 10.3 percent last year to 2,799 gigawatts. More than 260 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity was added, a 50 percent increase on capacity growth in 2019, the International Renewable Energy Agency said in a report.
Solar energy made up more than 48 percent of last year’s additions, accounting for 127 gigawatts. Overall solar capacity grew 22 percent year-on-year, while wind power capacity grew 18 percent to 111 gigawatts.
Collectively, wind and solar accounted for 91 percent of renewable additions last year, Irena said in its report.
“Along with the renewed growth of hydropower, this exceptional growth in wind and solar led to the highest annual increase in renewable generating capacity ever seen,” the Abu Dhabi-based agency said in its Renewable Capacity Highlights report.
Growth in renewables capacity increased last year despite the Covid-19 pandemic as governments around the world set targets to reduce carbon emissions.
“Despite the difficult period, as we predicted, 2020 marks the start of the decade of renewables,” Francesco La Camera, director general at Irena, said.
“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,” he added.
The growing share of renewables is also supported by the decommissioning of fossil fuel-backed power generation in Europe, North America. The Eurasian region, which includes countries like Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia and Turkey, witnessed decommissioning of hydrocarbons-based power generation for the first time, Irena said.
Total additions of conventional power generation fell to 60 gigawatts in 2020, from 64 gigawatts in 2019.
Hydropower capacity grew 2 percent last year to 20 gigawatts, while bioenergy capacity also increased by 2 percent to 2 gigawatts. Geothermal energy, which uses the earth’s heat to generate power, contributed to 164 megawatts of capacity last year.
Hydropower accounts for the largest share of renewables capacity, with 1,211 gigawatts of total volumes as of the end of 2020.
China and the US, the world’s two biggest economies, were the best performing countries in terms of renewables growth. China, the biggest market for renewables, added 136 gigawatts of clean energy capacity last year. Wind power accounted for 72 gigawatts of new capacity in the country and solar power for 49 gigawatts.
The US added 29 gigawatts of renewables capacity last year, an 80 per cent year-on-year increase. The world’s biggest economy added 15 gigawatts of solar and 14 gigawatts of wind capacity.