BY CHARLES ABUEDE
The world’s total renewable power capacity increased by 9.1 percent at the end of 2021 to reach 3,064 Gigawatt, according to data tracked globally by International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
The agency said renewable energy has continued to expand steadily, well above the long-term trend, adding that renewable’s share in total capacity expansion reached a new record of 81 percent last year.
The data contained in IRENA’s Renewable Capacity Statistics 2022 also provided a breakdown of the contributions made by different technologies. It shows that while hydropower accounted for the largest share of the global total renewable generation capacity with 1,230 gigawatt, solar and wind continued to dominate new generating capacity.
According to IRENA, these technologies together contributed 88 percent to the share of all new renewable capacity in 2021, noting specifically that solar capacity led with 19 percent increase, followed by wind energy, which increased its generating capacity by 13 percent.
“This continued progress is another testament of renewable energy’s resilience. Its strong performance last year represents more opportunities for countries to reap renewables’ multiple socio-economic benefits. However, despite the encouraging global trend, our new World Energy Transitions Outlook shows that the energy transition is far from being fast or widespread enough to avert the dire consequences of climate change,” said Francesco La Camera, director general of IRENA.
“Our current energy crisis also adds to the evidence that the world can no longer rely on fossil fuels to meet its energy demand. Money directed to fossil fuel power plants yields unrewarding results, both for the survival of a nation and the planet. Renewable power should become the norm across the globe. We must mobilise the political will to accelerate the 1.5°C pathway,” La Camera added
The agency stated that in order to achieve climate goals, renewables must grow at a faster pace than energy demand, adding, however, that many countries have not reached this point yet, despite significantly increasing the use of renewables for electricity generation.
On a regional basis, IRENA said 60 percent of the new capacity in 2021 was added in Asia, resulting in a total of 1.46 Terawatt (TW) of renewable capacity by 2021. For Asia, China was the biggest contributor as it added 121 GW to the continent’s new capacity.
The data also showed that Europe and North America — led by the USA — took second and third places respectively, with the former adding 39 GW, and the latter 38 GW.
In Africa renewable energy capacity grew by 3.9 percent, and by 3.3 percent in Central America and the Caribbean.
“Despite representing steady growth, the pace in both regions is much slower than the global average, indicating the need for stronger international cooperation to optimise electricity markets and drive massive investments in those regions,” IRENA said in a statement.
Highlights by technology:
Hydropower: Growth in hydro increased steadily in 2021 with the commissioning of several large projects delayed through 2021.
Wind energy: Wind expansion continued at a lower rate in 2021 compared to 2020 (+93 GW compared to +111 GW last year).
Solar energy: With an increase in new capacity in all major world regions in previous years, total global solar capacity has now outgrown wind energy capacity.
Bioenergy: Net capacity expansion increased in 2021 (+10.3 GW compared to +9.1 GW in 2020).
Geothermal energy: Geothermal capacity had an exceptional growth in 2021, with 1.6 GW added.
Off-grid electricity: Off-grid capacity grew by 466 MW in 2021 (+4%) to reach 11.2 GW.
In an explanatory note on the data, IRENA stated that, “Renewable power generation capacity is measured as the maximum net generating capacity of power plants and other installations that use renewable energy sources to produce electricity. For most countries and technologies, the data reflects the capacity installed and connected at the end of the calendar year.
“Data has been obtained from a variety of sources, including an IRENA questionnaire, official national statistics, industry association reports, other reports and news articles,” it added.