Renewable energy installations set for a record year: IEA

Wind turbines and solar panels in Kayseri, Turkey.

temizurek | E + | Getty Images

The world is set to add nearly 290 gigawatts of renewable energy this year, according to the International Energy Agency, and the Paris-based organization expects to “set a new all-time record for new installations by 2021.”

The IEA’s renewable energy market report released Wednesday predicts that the planet’s renewable electricity capacity will grow to more than 4,800 GW by 2026, more than 60% more than in 2020.

Power is understood as the maximum amount of energy that the installations can produce, and not what they necessarily generate.

According to the IEA, China will become the main engine of renewable capacity growth in the coming years, followed by Europe, the United States and India.

Looking at the bigger picture, the IEA said renewables are expected to account for “nearly 95% of the growth in global energy capacity through 2026.”

“We have revised our forecast from last year,” the report said, “as stronger political support and ambitious climate targets announced at COP26 outweigh current record commodity prices, which have pushed up construction costs for new wind and solar PV plants. “.

Solar photovoltaic systems refer to solar photovoltaic cells, a method of directly converting sunlight into electricity.

IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said the record addition of renewable electricity in 2021 will be “another sign of the emergence of a new global energy economy.”

“The high raw material and energy prices we see today are creating new challenges for the renewable industry, but elevated fossil fuel prices are also making renewables even more competitive,” Birol said.

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While the headlines from Wednesday’s report seem promising, many headwinds could hit the sector in the future.

The IEA report acknowledges this, noting that renewables face “a number of political uncertainties and implementation challenges”. This included issues related to everything from permitting and financing to grid integration and public acceptance.

“The current rise in commodity prices has put upward pressure on investment costs, while the availability of raw materials and rising electricity prices in some markets pose additional challenges for wind and solar panel manufacturers in the short term,” the IEA said.

However, the impact of “volatile commodity prices on demand” was considered limited as high fossil fuel prices further increased the competitiveness of both solar and wind energy.

When it comes to zero goals, the picture is perhaps even more complex.

While the addition of renewable energy capacity will “grow faster than at any time in the next five years,” it will not be enough to meet the IEA’s 2050 net zero emissions scenario.

Even the IEA Fast Track, in which governments tackle regulation, policy and implementation issues, will not be enough.

“The annual growth in manufacturing capacity under the IEA Zero-Zero Scenario during 2021-2026 should be 80% faster than our accelerated growth case, implying that governments need to not only address policy and implementation issues, but also raise your ambitions, ”the report says. …

This sobering tone echoes previous statements by the IEA. In October, it said that progress on clean energy remains “too slow to drive global emissions into a steady decline to net zero.”

In a sign of how much work needs to be done, the IEA’s World Energy Outlook describes how “the rapid but uneven economic recovery from last year’s Covid recession” has put a significant strain on the energy system. This triggered a “surge in prices in the natural gas, coal and electricity markets.”

“Despite all the advances made by renewable energies and electric mobility, significant growth in the use of coal and oil is expected in 2021,” the report says. “In large part for this reason, it has also seen the second highest annual growth in CO2 emissions in history.”

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