Renewables are Stronger Than Ever

Renewable sources of electricity—such as wind and solar energy—grew at their fastest rate in two decades in 2020 and are set to expand at an even much faster pace in coming years, according to the US International Energy Agency (EIA). 

In fact, renewables were the only energy source for which demand increased in 2020, while consumption of all other fuels declined. According to the IEA, the amount of renewable electricity capacity added in 2020 rose by 45 percent to 280 gigawatts (GW), the largest year-on-year increase since 1999. 

Specifically, global wind capacity additions almost doubled in 2020 to 114 GW. That growth is projected to slow down in 2021 and 2022, but the increases will still be 50 percent larger than the average expansion during the 2017-19 period. In addition, solar energy will continue to break new records with annual increases forecasted to reach over 160 GW by 2022. That would be almost 50 percent higher than the level achieved in 2019, affirming solar's strong growth position in global electricity markets.

  • In 2020, annual renewable capacity additions increased 45 percent to almost 280 GW—the highest year-on-year increase since 1999.
  • Exceptionally high-capacity additions of wind and solar energy realized exceptional growth in 2021 and 2022, accounting for 90 percent of new power capacity expansion globally.
  • Utility-scale solar development will continue to break records with annual additions reaching 162 GW by 2022—almost 50 percent higher than in 2019.
  • Global wind capacity additions increased more than 90 percent in 2020 to reach 114 GW. While the pace of annual market growth could slow in 2021 and 2022, it is still 50 percent higher than the 2017-2019 global wind energy average.

Governments need to build on this promising renewable energy momentum through policies that encourage greater investment in solar and wind, in the additional grid infrastructure they will require, and in other key renewable technologies such as hydropower, bioenergy and geothermal. A massive expansion of clean electricity is essential to giving the world a chance of achieving its net zero goals.