The International Energy Agency (IEA) announced the release of its Renewable Energy market Update today, highlighting the rapid growth in global renewable energy capacity over the past year, and the outlook for growth going forward.

According to the IEA report, renewable sources of electricity such as wind and solar grew at their fastest rate in two decades in 2020, with capacity added during the year rising by 45% to 280 gigawatts (GW), substantially ahead of prior forecasts of a 200 GW increase.

By country, China dominated the increase in 2020, responsible for 50% of global renewable capacity growth, ahead of the government phase out of subsidies for both wind and solar PV projects at the end of 2020.

By energy source, wind power capacity additions for the year nearly doubled, with 114 GW added, while solar capacity additions were nearly 135 GW, up 23% over 2019.

Going forward, the IEA revised its forecasts for capacity additions higher by more than 25% for the next two years compared to its November 2020 estimate, with 270 GW estimated to become operational in 2021 and 280 GW in 2022, as governments around the world have auctioned record levels of renewable capacity and companies have signed record-level power purchase agreements, despite pandemic-related uncertainties.

Overall, renewables are expected to account for 90% of total global power capacity increases in 2021 and 2022. Wind capacity expansion is forecast to pull back slightly following the dramatic growth in China, while solar PV increases are set to continue steadily growing, reaching 145 GW in 2021 and 162 GW in 2022.

Growth rates in China will likely pull back in 2021 following the subsidy expirations and the rapid increase in 2020, but may accelerate again after 2022, driven by new policy measures aimed at achieving the country’s long-term target to reach net-zero emissions by 2060.

Fatih Birol, the Executive Director of the IEA, said:

“Wind and solar power are giving us more reasons to be optimistic about our climate goals as they break record after record. Last year, the increase in renewable capacity accounted for 90% of the entire global power sector’s expansion. Governments need to build on this promising momentum through policies that encourage greater investment in solar and wind, in the additional grid infrastructure they will require, and in other key renewable technologies such as hydropower, bioenergy and geothermal. A massive expansion of clean electricity is essential to giving the world a chance of achieving its net zero goals.’’

Click here to see the full IEA report.