Record-breaking 260+ GW of Renewable Energy Added Globally in 2020 - Smart Energy Decisions

Hydro, Solar, Sourcing Renewables, Wind  -  April 7, 2021

Record-breaking 260+ GW of Renewable Energy Added Globally in 2020

More than 260 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy capacity were added around the world, an increase of almost 50% over expansion in 2019 and beating both estimates and records. According to data released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), more than 80% of all new electricity capacity added in 2020 was renewable, with solar and wind accounting for 91% of new renewables.

A statement from IRENA attributes this growth in part to net decommissioning of fossil fuel power generation in Europe, North America, and for the first time across Eurasia. Total fossil fuel additions fell to 60 GW in 2020 from 64 GW the previous year highlighting a continued downward trend of fossil fuel expansion.

 China, already the world’s largest market for renewables added 136 GW last year with the bulk coming from 72 GW of wind and 49 GW of solar.  The United States of America installed 29 GW of renewables last year, nearly 80%more than in 2019, including 15 GW of solar and around 14 GW of wind.

The growth of renewables is all the more remarkable for occurring during a global pandemic. “Despite the difficult period, as we predicted, 2020 marks the start of the decade of renewables,” said IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera. “Costs are falling, clean tech markets are growing, and never before have the benefits of the energy transition been so clear.”

IRENA presented the following highlights by technology:

  • Hydropower: Growth in hydro recovered in 2020, with the commissioning of several large projects delayed in 2019. China added 12 GW of capacity, followed by Turkey with 2.5 GW.
  • Wind energy: Wind expansion almost doubled in 2020 compared to 2019 (111 GW compared to 58 GW last year). China added 72 GW of new capacity, followed by the United States of America (14 GW). Ten other countries increased wind capacity by more than 1 GW in 2020. Offshore wind increased to reach around 5% of total wind capacity in 2020.
  • Solar energy: Total solar capacity has now reached about the same level as wind capacity thanks largely to expansion in Asia (78 GW) in 2020. Major capacity increases in China (49 GW) and Viet Nam (11 GW). Japan also added over 5 GW and India and Republic of Korea both expanded solar capacity by more than 4 GW. The United States of America added 15 GW.
  • Bioenergy: Net capacity expansion fell by half in 2020 (2.5 GW compared to 6.4 GW in 2019). Bioenergy capacity in China expanded by over 2 GW. Europe the only other region with significant expansion in 2020, adding 1.2 GW of bioenergy capacity, similar to 2019.
  • Geothermal energy: Very little capacity added in 2020. Turkey increased capacity by 99 MW and small expansions occurred in New Zealand, the United States of America, and Italy.
  • Off-grid electricity: Off-grid capacity grew by 365 MW in 2020 (2%) to reach 10.6 GW. Solar expanded by 250 MW to reach 4.3 GW and hydro remained almost unchanged at about 1.8 GW.

 

Keywords: IRENA

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