In 2020 more than 260 GW of renewable energy has been added, exceeding expansion in 2019 by close to 50 percent, according to data released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The organization’s annual »Renewable Capacity Statistics 2021« shows that renewable energy’s share »of all new generating capacity rose considerably for the second year in a row.«
More than 80 percent of all new electricity capacity added last year was renewable, with solar and wind accounting for 91 percent of new renewables. 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.«
»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.«
At the end of 2020, global renewable generation capacity amounted to 2,799 GW with hydropower still accounting for the largest share (1,211 GW). Solar and wind dominated the capacity expansion in 2020 with 127 GW and 111 GW of new installations.
China and the United States were the two outstanding growth markets from 2020. 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 installed 29 GW of renewables last year, nearly 80 percent more than in 2019, including 15 GW of solar and around 14 GW of wind. Africa continued to expand steadily with an increase of 2.6 GW, slightly more than in 2019, while Oceania remained the fastest growing region (plus 18.4 percent), although its share of global capacity is small and almost all expansion occurred in Australia.
Total solar capacity has now reached about the same level as wind capacity thanks largely to expansion in Asia (78 GW) in 2020. Viet Nam added 11 GW, Japan over 5 GW and India and Republic of Korea both expanded solar capacity by more than 4 GW.
Off-grid capacity grew by 365 MW in 2020 (2 percent) 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.