Renewable power ‘defies’ Covid-19 pandemic with record growth in 2020, says IEA

Clean sources of energy will account for almost 90 per cent of the increase in power capacity in 2020

Daisy Dunne
Climate Correspondent
@daisydunnesci
Tuesday 10 November 2020 10:44
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Wind turbines at sunrise off the north east coast of England
Wind turbines at sunrise off the north east coast of England

Growth in renewable sources of power reached a record level in 2020, “defying” the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, a new report from the International Energy Agency says.

The IEA report finds renewables will account for almost 90 per cent of the increase in total power capacity across the world in 2020.

The rise in clean power is being led by wind, solar and hydropower, the report says. The US and China are responsible for the most new additions to renewable power capacity in 2020.

“Renewable power is defying the difficulties caused by the pandemic, showing robust growth while others fuels struggle,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the executive director of the IEA.

The rise in renewables comes as fossil fuels have struggled with the downturn in demand caused by international lockdowns.

Oil prices crashed earlier this year as countries began issue lockdowns in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This left oil-dependent states, such as Nigeria, vulnerable to recession.

The net-installed renewable capacity will grow by nearly 4 per cent globally in 2020, reaching almost 200gw, according to the report.

“The renewables industry has adapted quickly to the challenges of the Covid crisis,” the report reads. “We have revised the IEA forecast for global renewable capacity additions in 2020 upwards by 18 per cent from our previous update in May.”

Renewable power is expected to surge further in 2021 to grow by a record 10 per cent, the report adds.

The rapid  growth expected in 2021 is in part due to “the commissioning of delayed projects in markets where construction and supply chains were disrupted” by the pandemic, the report says.

The growth of renewables from 2022-2025 is less certain, and could rely on policy decisions in key countries such as the US and China, the report says.

“Renewables are resilient to the Covid crisis but not to policy uncertainties,” said Dr Birol.

“In the US, for instance, if the proposed clean electricity policies of the next US administration are implemented, they could lead to a much more rapid deployment of solar PV and wind, contributing to a faster decarbonisation of the power sector.”

As part of his election campaign, Joe Biden announced a $2 trillion (£1.6 trillion) climate plan that would see a major transformation of electricity generation towards clean power across the US. (The country currently accounts for around 16 per cent of the world’s energy use.)

However, the president-elect could struggle to enact his ambitious federal climate measures if he does not take control of the Senate, leaving uncertainty hanging over the US’s future energy policy.

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