Renewables lead global power additions in 2021

Photo credit: IRENA.

By Anders Lorenzen

Encouraging data released in the report World Energy Transitions Outlook showed that despite global uncertainties renewables continued to grow and show momentum. At the end of 2021 global renewable energy generation capacity amounted to 3.064 gigawatts (GW) increasing global renewable energy capacity to 9.1%.

Though hydropower, which by some is not considered a renewable energy technology, accounted for the largest share of renewable energy generation at 1.230 GW of capacity, the research by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) showed that solar and wind continued to dominate new generating capacity. 

Combined, those two fast-growing renewable energy technologies contributed 88% to the share of all new renewable capacity in 2021. Solar increased its generating capacity by 19% and wind power by 13%.

Other noteworthy findings from the report were that geothermal energy is finally beginning to pick up some speed with 1.6 GW added in 2021, however, the promising technology still lags far behind the mainstream renewable energy technologies. And renewables deployed as off-grid grew by 466 megawatts (MW) in 2021

Research from IRENA showed that in 2021 renewable energy technologies continued to account for most new power additions.

Asia is still the renewable energy powerhouse

Geographically Asia saw the biggest increase at 60 %, increasing the continent’s total renewable energy capacity to 1.46 Terawatt (TW). In Asia, China was the biggest installer at 121 GW. Europe and North America were second and third respectively at 39 GW & 38 GW. In Africa, Central America and the Caribbean, it grew more slowly at 3.9 % and 3.3 % respectively.

IRENA Director-General, Francesco La Camera, said about the research: “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.” He did however have some concerns, remarking: ”However, despite the encouraging global trend, our research shows that the energy transition is far from being fast or widespread enough to avert the dire consequences of climate change.”

IRENA said that in order to meet agreed climate goals renewables need to grow even faster and must exceed energy demand. They explained that despite having increased their renewable energy capacity, many countries have not yet reached that threshold.

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