Solar Overtakes Wind Energy For First Time In Global Rush For Renewables
Solar power has overtaken wind for the first time, in the race to develop renewable energy capacity around the globe.
According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), solar energy now accounts for 28% of the world’s renewable electricity generation capacity, just ahead of wind with 27%. This time last year, the two were evenly matched at 26% each.
The figures come from the latest Renewable Capacity Statistics report, released by the UAE-based organization on April 11.
It said that by the end of 2021 global renewable generation capacity amounted to 3,064 gigawatts (GW), a 9.1% increase on the previous year. The 256.7GW of clean energy added to national grids last year accounted for 81% of all the electricity generation capacity additions around the world, a record level.
Solar and wind energy are not the only renewable electricity sources, but they are building a dominant position in the market. IRENA’s figures show that solar and wind were responsible for 88% of all new renewable capacity in 2021. Solar energy grew by 19% last year, while wind energy grew by 13%.
Hydropower still accounts for the largest share of global renewable energy generation, with 1,230GW, but its position is being steadily eroded. As recently as 2018, hydropower was responsible for half of all renewable energy output, but its share is now down to 40% and is expected to fall further in the coming years.
Other sources including bioenergy and geothermal accounted for 5% of the renewable market in 2021, a level that has remained steady for several years.
However, IRENA director-general Francesco La Camera warned that, despite the strong rate of expansion, far more needs to be done if the world is to avoid the worst effects of climate change. “Despite the encouraging global trend … the energy transition is far from being fast or widespread enough to avert the dire consequences of climate change,” said La Camera.
Asia leads the way
Asia is leading the way when it comes to expanding renewable capacity. Last year, 60% of all new capacity was added there, with 155GW coming on stream. China alone accounted for 121GW of that, including 53GW of solar energy and 6GW of bioenergy capacity.
Other countries to add significant amounts of solar power included the U.S. with 19.6GW, India (10.3GW), Brazil (5.2GW), Germany (4.7GW), Japan (4.4GW) and South Korea (3.6GW). China also led the field with wind power capacity additions in 2021, with 47GW added. It was followed by the U.S. with 14GW. A further 11 countries added more than 1GW.
Overall, Asia’s renewable energy capacity expanded by 11% in 2021. It was followed by North America with 9% growth and Europe with 6.4%. Other areas are lagging further behind. IRENA said renewable energy capacity grew by just 3.9% in Africa and 3.3% in Central America and the Caribbean.