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Over 80% of 2020 global power generation installations renewable: IRENA

06 April 2021 Keiron Greenhalgh

More than 80% of all power generation capacity installed in 2020 was renewable, with solar and wind accounting for 91% of new renewables, according to International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) data released 5 April. A year earlier, renewables accounted for 72% of generation additions.

More than 260 GW of renewable energy capacity came online in 2020, exceeding newbuild figures for 2019 by close to 50%, and the highest total on record, the trade association said in its Renewable Capacity Statistics 2021 report.

Total fossil fuel additions fell to 60 GW in 2020 from 64 GW a year earlier, highlighting a continued downward trend of fossil fuel expansion, it added.

"These numbers tell a remarkable story of resilience and hope. Despite the challenges and the uncertainty of 2020, renewable energy emerged as a source of undeniable optimism for a better, more equitable, resilient, clean, and just future," said IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera. "The great reset offered a moment of reflection and chance to align our trajectory with the path to inclusive prosperity, and there are signs we are grasping it."

At the end of 2020, global renewable generation capacity totted up to 2,799 GW, with hydro-electric power continuing to account for the largest share at 1,211 GW, IRENA said, although it added that solar and wind were catching up quickly.

Solar and wind dominated capacity additions in 2020, accounting for 127 GW and 111 GW of installations, respectively. With those newbuild totals, solar and wind capacity totaled 714 GW and 733 GW at the end of 2020, respectively, the trade association said.

IRENA said China and the US were the top two markets for newbuild additions in 2020. Already the world's biggest market for renewable capacity, China added 136 GW in 2020, including 72 GW of wind and 49 GW of solar, the trade group said. The US installed 29 GW of renewable capacity in 2020, almost 80% more than in 2019, comprising 15 GW of solar and around 14 GW of wind, it added.

More on the way

Annual installations of renewable power generation globally will increase to about 300 GW by 2024, according to an IHS Markit white paper released in March.

Solar installations are set to increase more than 30% year on year in 2021, IHS Markit said in a separate report on 21 January, Top Clean Tech Trends to Watch in 2021. China will account for 35% of global solar installations in 2021, it added.

Annual onshore wind installations in 2021 will continue to be derived from installation rushes in markets facing imminent subsidy cuts, IHS Markit said, while offshore wind deployment in 2021 could exceed 10 GW, nearly twice as much as last year, again driven by mainland China.

The heads of Iberdrola and Total see offshore wind as a viable substitute for baseload coal-fired generation because it operates longer than either solar or onshore wind resources and boasts a higher capacity factor, or the average power that it generates compared to its nameplate capacity, they told the CERAWeek by IHS Markit conference on 3 March.

"I think the positive thing about offshore [wind] is it can be a good substitute for baseload because the number of hours of operation is very large, 4,000-5,000 hours, and it is very stable and predictable," Iberdrola CEO Ignacio Galán said.

Funding is available

But, speaking at another CERAWeek by IHS Markit panel, Jan Laubjerg, HSBC global head of natural resources, said there is more capital available than needed in the short term for all the energy transition investment opportunities — innumerable though they may have seemed in the past 12 months.

It was, he said, "a fire hose of capital chasing a very small set of opportunities globally."

The energy transition economy was one of the few sectors that saw a net inflow of capital after the COVID-19 pandemic imposed a chokehold on finance, Laubjerg said, adding that he had not seen anything like this in the three decades he had been working in the finance sector, even during the dot-com boom.

Posted 06 April 2021 by Keiron Greenhalgh, Editor, Climate & Sustainability Group, IHS Markit

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