The world’s power generation is about to become even more green, according to a new publication from the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The group on Nov. 10 published its “Renewables 2020″ report, and highlighted how generation capacity from both wind and solar will double across the next five years and surpass global generation from both coal and natural gas. The IEA said renewable energy this year is growing at its fastest annual pace in the past six years, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency said the pandemic has in fact hastened the closure of older thermal power generation infrastructure; as an example, American Electric Power this week announced it would shut down nearly half its entire fleet of U.S. coal-fired power plants.
The IEA in the report said “the COVID-19 crisis is hurting—but not halting—global renewable energy growth,” noting that “renewable markets, especially electricity-generating technologies, have already shown their resilience to the crisis.”
90% of New Generation Is Renewable
“From January to October 2020, auctioned renewable capacity was 15% higher than for the same period last year, a new record,” the report said. “At the same time, the shares of publicly listed renewable equipment manufacturers and project developers have been outperforming most major stock market indices and the overall energy sector.”
The report said almost 90% of new power generation in 2020 will be renewable, with about 10% of new output coming from natural gas- and coal-fired plants. The IEA said a continuance of that trend would make renewables the world’s largest power source in 2025.
Fatih Birol, the agency’s executive director, in a statement said, “Renewable power is defying the difficulties caused by the pandemic, showing robust growth while other fuels struggle. The resilience and positive prospects of the sector are clearly reflected by continued strong appetite from investors—and the future looks even brighter with new capacity additions on course to set fresh records this year and next.”
Birol continued: “Governments can tackle these issues to help bring about a sustainable recovery and accelerate clean energy transitions. In the United States, for instance, if the proposed clean electricity policies of the next U.S. administration are implemented, they could lead to a much more rapid deployment of solar PV [photovoltaic] and wind, contributing to a faster decarbonization of the power sector.”
John Lichtenberger, senior vice president of Core Solar, an Austin, Texas-based developer of solar power projects, recently told POWER, “the cost of solar technology has come down so much” that developing solar power is a “no-brainer, from an environmental standpoint and an economic standpoint. Renewables are not a novelty, they’re a legitimate cost-effective, environmental way to generate power. Solar technology [has] been refined and improved, and the cost has come down. The technology has become a commodity, [and] we’re seeing production across the globe.”
Global Energy Demand Falls
The IEA said the coronavirus pandemic is a major factor in a 5% decline this year in global demand for energy. The report, though, said “priority access to the grid and continuous installation of new plants are all underpinning strong growth in renewable electricity. This more than compensates for declines in bioenergy for industry and biofuels for transport—mostly the result of lower economic activity. The net result is an overall increase of 1% in renewable energy demand in 2020.”
The report said new deployments of renewable energy, led by China and the U.S., mean that “net installed renewable capacity will grow by nearly 4% globally in 2020, reaching almost 200 GW. Higher additions of wind and hydropower are taking global renewable capacity additions to a new record this year, accounting for almost 90% of the increase in total power capacity worldwide. Solar PV growth is expected to remain stable as a faster expansion of utility-scale projects compensates for the decline in rooftop additions resulting from individuals and companies reprioritizing investments. Wind and solar PV additions are set to jump by 30% in both the People’s Republic of China and the United States as developers rush to complete projects before changes in policy take effect.”
The agency said India and the European Union also will drive increases in renewable energy, which the report said will result in a record expansion of global renewable capacity additions of nearly 10% next year, the fastest growth since 2015. The IEA recently said that solar power today is now the cheapest source of electricity in history.
The report said that total installed wind and solar PV capacity is on track to overtake natural gas in 2023, and coal in 2024—and said that generation from all renewable resources will become the “largest source of electricity generation worldwide in 2025,” supplying one-third of global power output.
The IEA report said, “Solar PV alone accounts for 60% of all renewable capacity additions through 2025, and wind provides another 30%. Driven by further cost declines, annual offshore wind additions are set to surge, accounting for one-fifth of the total wind annual market in 2025.”
—Darrell Proctor is associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).