Renewables accounted for 81% of 2021 capacity additions, IRENA says

18 APR 2022
Opinion articles Clean Energy

Renewable energy maintained its growth momentum in 2021 despite global uncertainties, accounting for 81 percent of total capacity expansion last year, according to the latest report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

By the end of 2021, global renewable generation capacity amounted to 3,064 gigawatts (GW), increasing the stock of renewable power by 9.1 percent, the Renewable Capacity Statistics 2022 report shows.

While hydropower still accounted for the largest share of total capacity with 1,230 GW, solar and wind continued previous years’ trend of dominating new generating capacity. Solar and wind represented 88 percent of new capacity in 2021, with 19 percent and 13 percent generating increases, respectively.

“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. However, despite the encouraging global trend, [the] energy transition is far from being fast or widespread enough to avert the dire consequences of climate change,” said IRENA Director-General, Francesco La Camera.

“Our current energy crisis also adds to the evidence that the world can no longer rely on fossil fuels to meet its energy demand. Money directed to fossil fuel power plants yields unrewarding results, both for the survival of a nation and the planet. Renewable power should become the norm across the globe. We must mobilize the political will to accelerate the 1.5°C pathway.”

To achieve climate goals, renewables must grow at a faster pace than energy demand. However, many countries have not reached this point yet, despite significantly increasing the use of renewables for electricity generation.

Most of the new renewable capacity in 2021 was added in Asia, with 1.46 Terawatt (TW) accounting for 60 percent of new capacity. China was the biggest contributor, adding 121 GW to the continent’s new capacity.

Europe had the second-largest increased renewable capacity, adding 39 GW, while North America – led by the US – was a close third with 38 GW. South America had the fourth-highest capacity increase, amounting to 15.5 GW.

Africa’s renewable capacity grew by 3.9 percent while Central America and the Caribbean had an increase of 3.3 percent. The Middle East region recorded 4.5 percent growth, with a 1 GW increase in renewable sources.

The full Renewable Capacity Statistics 2022 including the highlights can be found here.