Renewables will be the world’s main source of electricity as early as 2027, the United Nations’ energy authority states bluntly today.

In its global survey Renewables 2022, the International Energy Agency predicts that installed solar PV capacity is set to almost triple over the next half-decade, surpassing coal and becoming the planet’s largest single source of power.

Russia’s violation of Ukraine is spurring the world’s energy investors to tighten their already fierce embrace of renewables by 30% more over the next five years, boosting clean generation by as much as China’s entire output capacity, the world-leading energy body uis forecasting.

Deployment of clean wind and hydro alongside solar over the period will together amount to 2,400GW of new renewables. According to the IEA’s research, that matches China’s entire generation capacity today, coal, gas and nuclear included.

With utility-scale PV and onshore wind firmly established as the cheapest options for new generation in major economies, renewables investment was already on a sharp upswing before Putin’s unprovoked attack in February.

Seizing renewables’ offer of energy security, and cutting nations’ exposure to oil and gas bought from dictators, have lit afterburners behind the trend.

Renewables will take more than $90 of every $100 spent on new power capacity between now and 2027, the report calculates.

The bonanza will see as much cash spent on clean generation in the next five years as the sector has enjoyed in the past twenty, the IEA’s forecasters say.

Also doubling the rate of its new low-carbon installations, Europe will lead the world in the race towards renewables, the UN body predicts.

For solar, cutting supply links with authoritarian China, and bringing home manufacture of ingots, modules and inverters will be a key industry trend.  Moves such as the EU’s pondering in April 45% of electricity made from clean sources by 2030 and President Biden’s Reduction of Inflation Act, will drive the trend.  China will end the period with its 90% present command of solar manufacturing trimmed only marginally to 75%.

Global wind capacity will almost double over the forecast period. Offshore projects will take one-fifth of the growth.

Re-gaining the apparently abandoned 1.5 degree target for global heating apparently lost after last month’s CoP27 climate conference could even be back on the table, according to IEA executive director Fatih Birol.

“This is a clear example of how the current energy crisis can be a historic turning point towards a cleaner and more secure energy system”, Dr Birol said.

Beyond its central scenario, the report identifies a more ambitious vision, buoyed by governments’ speedier permitting of projects, and concerted electrification of transport and heat. That could extend clean generation yet further, 25% up on the IEA’s core predictions.

Read the IEA’s Renewables 2022 here.


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