Wind turbines and solar panels in Kayseri, Turkey.
temizyurek | E + | Getty pictures
The world is set to add nearly 290 gigawatts of renewable power capacity this year, according to the International Energy Agency, with the Paris-based organization expecting 2021 to “set a new record for new installations.”[ads1];
Published on Wednesday, the IEA’s Renewables Market Report estimates that the planet’s renewable electricity capacity will jump to more than 4800 GW by 2026, an increase of over 60% compared to 2020 levels.
Capacity refers to the maximum amount of energy that installations can produce, not what they necessarily generate.
China is set to be the main driver of renewable capacity growth in the coming years, according to the IEA, with Europe, the United States and India following suit.
Looking at the bigger picture, the IEA said renewable energy was expected to account for “almost 95% of the increase in global power capacity through 2026.”
“We have revised our forecast from a year earlier,” the report said, “as stronger political support and ambitious climate targets announced for COP26 outweigh the current record high commodity prices that have increased the cost of building new solar and solar power plants.”
Solar PV refers to solar energy, a way to directly convert light from the sun into electricity.
The IEA’s chief executive, Fatih Birol, said 2021’s record-breaking renewable electricity subsidies were “another sign that a new global energy economy is emerging.”
“The high raw material and energy prices we see today pose new challenges for the renewable industry, but high prices for fossil fuels also make renewable energy even more competitive,” said Birol.
While the headline figures from Wednesday’s report look promising, a number of headwinds have the potential to hit the sector in the future.
The IEA report acknowledged this, noting that renewable energy faced a “number of political uncertainties and implementation challenges.” These included issues related to everything from permits and funding to online integration and social acceptance.
“Current increases in raw material prices have put upward pressure on investment costs, while the availability of raw materials and rising electricity prices in some markets pose further challenges for wind and solar panel manufacturers in the short term,” the IEA said.
Nevertheless, the effects of “volatile raw material prices on demand” were seen as limited, with high prices for fossil fuels further increasing the competitiveness of both solar cell PV and wind.
When it comes to net-zero goals, the picture is perhaps even more challenging.
Although capacity increases for renewable energy are on track to “grow faster than ever over the next five years”, this will not be enough to meet the IEA’s scenario of net zero emissions by 2050.
Even the IEA’s “accelerated case”, in which governments tackle challenges related to regulation, policy and implementation, would not be enough.
“Annual capacity growth under the IEA Net Zero Scenario during 2021-2026 must be 80% faster than in our accelerated case, suggesting that governments must not only address policy and implementation challenges, but also increase their ambitions,” it said. in the report. .
This sober tone reflects previous statements by the IEA. In October, it claimed that progress in clean energy remained “too slow to put global emissions in a sustained decline towards net zero.”
As a sign of how much work needs to be done, the IEA’s World Energy Outlook described how a “rapid but uneven economic recovery from last year’s Covid-induced recession” had put significant strain on the energy system. This had triggered “sharp price increases in the natural gas, coal and electricity markets.”
“For all the progress made by renewable energy and electric mobility, 2021 sees a big increase in coal and oil use,” the report continued. “Mostly for this reason, it also sees the second largest annual increase in CO2 emissions in history.”