Record global renewables capacity added in 2020

Wind turbines on hills

Despite the pandemic, 260GWh of new renewable capacity went live.

Last year saw record levels of new renewable energy capacity added to the global power supply, with solar and wind generation leading the way. The news that new installations in 2020 outstripped 2019 by 50% comes despite serious global economic difficulties resulting from the Covid pandemic.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reports that new generating capacity rose considerably for the second year in a row and that more than 80% of all new generating capacity installed around the world was renewable. Solar (127GWh) and wind (111GWh) capacity made up 91% of new renewable capacity in 2020.

New installations of renewable energy came alongside the gradual decommissioning of fossil fuel power generation in Europe, North America and, for the first time, across Eurasia in places like Turkey. There were new fossil fuel additions in 2020 but the 60GWh of new capacity installed globally is down on previous years and that trend is expected to continue.

IRENA director general, Francesco La Camera, said: “These numbers tell a remarkable story of resilience and hope. Despite the challenges and the uncertainty of 2020, renewable energy emerged as a source of undeniable optimism for a better, more equitable, resilient, clean and just future. The great reset offered a moment of reflection and chance to align our trajectory with the path to inclusive prosperity, and there are signs we are grasping it.”

By the end of 2020, global renewable capacity amounted to 2,799GWh. Hydropower remains the world’s largest source of renewable energy, with 1,211GWh of capacity. While it isn’t growing as fast as solar or wind capacity, hydropower does continue to grow, with significant new installations in China and Turkey in 2020.

More than half of the world’s new renewable capacity added in 2020 was in China, which is already the single largest national market for renewable energy. It added 72GWh of wind power and 49GWh of solar, along with 12GWh of hydropower capacity.  Oceania was the fastest growing region for renewables, although its share of global capacity remains small.

Other forms of renewable energy did not fare as well in 2020, with new bioenergy installations halving compared to 2019, while geothermal saw very little new capacity installed around the world.

Click here to read the report, Renewable Capacity Statistics 2021