The future is here: IEA’s “new normal” means 90% of post-Covid power investment will be in renewables

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Future growth is renewable – Last year the increase in renewable capacity accounted for 90%  of the entire global power sector’s expansion

Further confirmation – if confirmation were needed – that this planet energy’s future is both green and low-carbon, comes today from the world’s power authority the International Energy Agency.

As much as 90% of future investment in generating equipment will be directed into renewables, a trend accelerated by the globe’s coronavirus lockdown, the United Nations body predicts.

That trend is already evident. Last year new installed capacity from renewables surged 45%, the biggest yearly jump since 1999, says the IEA report. Worldwide, 2021’s predicted commissioning of a massive 270GW of new plant is only slightly down on 2020’s achievement.

The planet’s acceleration towards carbon-free or low-carbon electricity is giddy-making.  Driving the IEA to revise upwards by 25% its clean power predictions issued only in November, three factors predominate:

  • Governments’ recognition of the climate emergency
  • their embrace of reverse auctions of power supplied clean and at tumbling market prices,
  • Corporations signing PPAs supplied predominantly at prices which carbon-heavy sources cannot match

Solar photovoltaics have taken over as the “new king” of global electricity, according to the IEA. PV additions will reach over 160GW by 2022.

For wind, new additions to the planet’s turbine parks nearly doubled last year, to 114GW.  The surge may slow during 2021 and 2022, but will stay as much as 50% above pre-coronavirus offshore and onshore buildout rates.

Renewables’ acceleration puts pressure on governments to strengthen distribution grids, the IEA notes.    In 2019 National Grid Electricity Transmission committed itself to spend £7.4bn before 2027 in upgrading UK networks.

“Wind and solar power are giving us more reasons to be optimistic about our climate goals as they break record after record,” IEA executive director general Fatih Birol commented.

“Last year the increase in renewable capacity accounted for 90%  of the entire global power sector’s expansion”.

“A massive expansion of clean electricity is essential to giving the world a chance of achieving its net zero goals”, Birol added’.

Likely to accelerate still more advanced economies’ green power shift is President Biden’s new US emissions reductions targets.   Still before Congress, the new administration’s numbers are not included in today’s IEA estimates.

The IEA’s report is here.

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