What is the fastest growing renewable energy

Global energy transition: Record year for renewable energies

April 7th, 2021 - The International Agency for Renewable Energies (IRENA) reports a year of superlatives in the expansion of renewable energies. Accordingly, the expansion in 2020 exceeded earlier estimates and all previous records. New capacities of 260 gigawatts were created, an increase of almost 50 percent compared to 2019.

With a view to fossil power generation, a positive trend is solidifying. More than 80 percent of the power plants built last year generate electricity from renewable energies - and 91 percent of this comes from solar and wind energy. Nevertheless, new fossil fuel power plants also went into operation, albeit with a slight downward trend. While coal and gas power plants with a capacity of 64 gigawatts went online in 2019, the figure was only 60 gigawatts in 2020.

The growing share of renewables is partly due to the shutdown of electricity generation from fossil fuels in Europe, North America and, for the first time, also in Eurasia. IRENA combines the countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Russian Federation and Turkey as Eurasia.

2020 marks a change

Despite the corona pandemic and the associated economic slump, 2020 will mark the beginning of the decade of renewable energies, stressed IRENA Director General Francesco La Camera when presenting the figures. The extension testifies to resilience and gives cause for hope. Despite the challenges and uncertainties of 2020, renewable energies would have proven to be an undeniable source of optimism for a better, fairer, more resilient and cleaner future.

According to IRENA, the 10.3 percent increase in installed renewables capacity represents an expansion that exceeds the long-term trend of more moderate growth from year to year. At the end of 2020, the global generation capacity from renewable energies was 2,799 gigawatts. The largest share is still attributable to hydropower with 1,211 gigawatts, although solar and wind power are rapidly catching up.

127 gigawatts of new solar power was installed worldwide last year. With 22 percent, solar energy thus carries the largest share of the new electricity generation capacities from renewable energies. In addition to the growth markets of China and the USA, Vietnam has also added a lot of solar power - 11 gigawatts. Japan increased its solar energy capacity by five gigawatts, India and Korea by four gigawatts each.

Wind energy accounts for 111 gigawatts of new capacity, which corresponds to a share of 18 percent. The expansion of wind energy has almost doubled compared to 2019. At that time, 58 gigawatts of wind power were connected to the grid. In addition to China and the USA, which account for the majority of the expansion, ten other countries have increased their wind power capacities by more than one gigawatt in 2020. The share of offshore wind turbines in total wind power capacity rose to five percent.

China and the USA are the largest growth markets

China and the US were the two fastest growing countries. 72 gigawatts of wind power and 49 gigawatts of solar power were installed in China. A total of 136 gigawatts of renewable systems were connected to the grid - around half of the global expansion. In the USA, 15 gigawatts of solar energy and 14 gigawatts of wind power were installed, an increase of almost 80 percent compared to 2019.

Africa has seen constant expansion, rising 2.6 gigawatts, slightly more than in 2019, while Oceania remained the fastest growing region, albeit its share of global capacity is small and the expansion has been almost entirely driven by Australia.

In addition to generating electricity from wind and sun, hydropower plants were also newly expanded. In China 12 gigawatts were put into operation, in Turkey 2.5 gigawatts. In the case of biomass, the number of new plants decreased compared to 2019. The global capacity increase is 2.5 gigawatts. Geothermal energy is showing low growth rates.

The generation of electricity for immediate use without the need to pass through the grid - so-called off-grid systems - continues its upward trend. The off-grid power generation capacity grew by two percent and reached a total capacity of 10.6 gigawatts by the end of the year.

Renewable energies have also shown an upward trend as a job engine for years. At the end of 2019, IRENA had 11.5 million jobs in the renewables industry worldwide. The agency had already proposed in the middle of last year to link economic aid to climate protection programs and thus overcome the corona crisis with sustainable development. Under certain conditions, 19 million additional jobs could be created in this area by 2030. pf