Solar Power Led Global Renewable Energy Additions Last Year, IRENA Shows

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), has released new data that shows that renewable energy continues to grow and gain momentum despite global uncertainties. Global renewable generation capacity was 3,064 gigawatts by 2021, an increase of 9.1% in renewable power stock.

Although hydropower accounted for the largest share of the global total renewable generation capacity with 1,230 GW, IRENA’s Renewable Capacity Statistics 2022 shows that solar and wind continued to dominate new generating capacity. Both technologies combined contributed 88% of all new renewable capacity for 2021. The solar capacity saw a 19% increase, followed closely by wind energy which saw a 13% increase.

“This continued progress is another testament of renewable energy’s resilience,” says IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera. “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.”

“Our current energy crisis also adds to the evidence that the world can no longer rely on fossil fuels to meet its energy demand. The survival of a nation as well as the survival the planet depends on the money spent on fossil fuel power plants. Renewable power should be the new norm. We must mobilize the political will to accelerate the 1.5°C pathway.”

To reach climate goals, renewables must grow more quickly than energy demand. Despite significant increases in renewable electricity generation, many countries have not yet reached this point.

Sixty percent (2021) of the new capacity was added in Asia. This equates to 1.46 TW renewable capacity by 2021. China was the biggest contributor, adding 121 GW to the continent’s new capacity. Europe and North America – led by the U.S. – took second and third places respectively, with the former adding 39 GW, and the latter 38 GW. The growth in renewable energy capacity was 3.9% in Africa, and 3.3% in Central America/the Caribbean. Despite steady growth, the pace of growth in both regions is slower than the global average. This highlights the need for stronger international cooperation in order to optimize electricity markets in these regions and drive massive investments.

The growth in hydropower continued to increase in 2021 despite the delay in commissioning large projects through 2021. Wind expansion continued to slow in 2021, compared to 2020 (+93GW) and +111GW lastyear.

Due to the increase in solar capacity in all major global regions, the total global solar capacity has now exceeded wind energy capacity. Net capacity expansion was greater in 2021 (+10.3GW) than in 2020 (+9.1GW).

With 1.6GW added to the geothermal power, 2021 saw an extraordinary growth. Off-grid power grew by 466MW (+4%) in 2021 to reach 11.2GW.

The complete Renewable Capacity Statistics 2022 can be found here.