Wind and solar capacity will double over the next five years globally and exceed that of both gas and coal, according to a new International Energy Agency (IEA) report. The Paris-based intergovernmental agency anticipates a 1,123 gigawatt (GW) increase in wind and solar that would mean these power sources overtake gas capacity in 2023 and coal in 2024.
“In sharp contrast to all other fuels, renewables used for generating electricity will grow by almost 7% in 2020,” the Paris-based agency states in the executive summary to the online report. “Global energy demand is set to decline 5%–but long-term contracts, priority access to the grid, and continuous installation of new plants are all underpinning strong growth in renewable electricity.” That growth “more than compensates for declines in bioenergy for industry and biofuels for transport—mostly the result of lower economic activity,” the IEA adds. “The net result is an overall increase of 1% in renewable energy demand in 2020.”
In the next five years, renewables are set to become the largest source of electricity ⚡️ generation worldwide – ending coal’s five decades at the top of the power mix.
— IEA (@IEA) November 10, 2020
The continued growth of wind and solar means renewables, including hydro and bioenergy, would displace coal as the largest source of the world’s power by 2025, says the IEA’s report. Last year, Carbon Brief analysis of the IEA’s data found that it only expected renewables to overtake coal output over the next five years under its more optimistic “accelerated case” scenario. However, this year – even in its less ambitious “main case” scenario – wind, solar, hydro and biomass are projected to take the lead within the next five years.
The IEA forecasts 198GW of new renewable energy capacity will be brought online this year, driven by wind (65GW, up 8% from last year), hydropower (up 43%) and solar PV (stable growth). If this prediction is realised, renewables will account for nearly 90% of total global power additions in 2020, according to the report.
As power demand goes up around the world to accommodate economic growth and increasingly electrified societies, the IEA expects renewables to meet virtually all of this increase. Its report forecasts renewables meeting 99% of the increase in electricity demand over the next five years. In the US and Europe, renewable increases are expected to far exceed demand as they are brought in to replace ageing fossil fuel infrastructure. However, in Asian nations renewables will only cover some of the future demand, with the remainder covered by fossil fuels.
Recent weeks have seen China, South Korea and Japan all come forward with net-zero pledges that will require the phasing out of coal power and a significant uptick in renewables. The recent presidential election victory for Joe Biden in the US, who has pledged a $2tn spending programme for clean energy, could also have a significant impact on the renewables sector.