October 4, 2017 Read More →

IEA: Record Surge in Solar Electricity ‘Important for the Fossil Fuel Industry to Take Note Of’


Renewable energy capacity grew at a record pace last year buoyed by government policies in Asia, the International Energy Agency said Wednesday.

The world added 6% more renewable energy capacity in 2016 than in the previous year, according to a report by the IEA, a Paris- based organization that advises governments on energy.

Fatih Birol, the executive director of the IEA, called the ascension of solar power “a remarkable benchmark,” while speaking at a press conference in London.

Worldwide, solar power surged ahead of all other fuels growing by 74 gigawatts in 2016, 50% higher than the previous year.

While China accounted for the lion’s share of all the growth in renewables at 41%, the U.S. came in second and distinguished itself by surpassing the European Union and adding 24 gigawatts of renewable power in 2016, a 44% increase from a year earlier.

Other types of renewable energy drove growth elsewhere. In Sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, the growth in renewable energy was driven by the addition of hydropower.

Fossil fuels remain the world’s top commodity for electricity generation but renewables are narrowing the gap, the IEA said. The agency forecasts that renewable power will equal half of the current total coal capacity by 2022.

Overall renewable power generation grew by 7% last year and accounted for more than 24% of the global electricity mix, trailing in second place after coal, the world’s the leading energy source for electricity generation.

Last year the world got most of its renewable energy from hydropower followed by wind, bioenergy, solar and a few others.

If current government policies remain in place, the IEA forecasts that renewable power generation will exceed 8000 terawatts by 2022, a number that is equal to the consumption of China, India and Germany combined.

The data is very “important for the fossil fuel industry to take note of,” said Mr. Birol.

More: ($) Solar Power Surged Ahead of Other Fuels in 2016—Energy Journal


New solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity increased by 50 percent in 2016, according to a renewables market analysis and forecast from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Additions of solar PV grew faster than any other fuel and surpassed the net growth in coal, the IEA added. This was the first time this has happened, it said. Photovoltaic refers to a way of directly converting light from the sun into electricity.

“We see renewables growing by about 1,000 GW (gigawatts) by 2022, which equals about half of the current global capacity in coal power, which took 80 years to build,” Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, said in a statement within the report.

“What we are witnessing is the birth of a new era in solar PV,” Birol added.

“We expect that solar PV capacity growth will be higher than any other renewable technology through 2022.”

According to the IEA’s report on Wednesday, renewables accounted for nearly two-thirds of net new power capacity in 2016. Almost 165 gigawatts (GW) came online in 2016, with the IEA adding that renewable electricity capacity looked set to grow by 43 percent by the year 2022.

Speaking to CNBC on Wednesday, Birol said this year’s report showed another record for growth in renewable energy.

“Every year there is a record in renewables,” he said. “But this year, the solar power plant additions are higher than that of wind, that of coal, that of gas and that of nuclear. And more than 50 percent of those (additions) comes from one country – which is China,” he said.

‘Good marriage’

Looking ahead, the IEA said that China, India and the U.S. would account for two-thirds of worldwide renewable expansion by 2022.

When it comes to power generation, the IEA said that renewable electricity was seen growing by over a third by 2022, hitting more than 8,000 terawatt hours. This figure, the IEA said, was equivalent to the power consumption of China, India and Germany combined.

Birol believed the cost of solar energy would continue to decline.

“The era of expensive renewables is over,” he said.

More: New era of solar power is now upon us, IEA says


A previous report from the IEA estimated the cost of utility-scale solar power projects has declined by about 60 percent since 2011 and could drop another 25 percent by 2021. In response, investments in solar photovoltaic systems increased 20 percent last year.

China is leading the pack with solar PV accounting for about half of the total global expansion. China also takes credit as a global leader in exports of solar components. Chinese renewable power company Trina Solar said last month it now claims a quarter of the market share in India after setting a milestone for shipments.

The IEA said efforts by the Indian government to address distressed utilities meant total renewable power capacity will double by 2022. Solar and wind power in India combine for about 90 percent of new capacity growth.

In the United States, the IEA said the world’s largest economy is No. 2 when it comes to growth in the renewable energy market because of federal tax incentives for wind and solar power.

“Still, the current uncertainty over proposed federal tax reforms, international trade and energy policies could alter the economic attractiveness of renewables and hamper their growth over our forecast period,” the IEA’s report read.

U.S. President Donald Trump is trying to support coal and nuclear power as grid-resilient fuel supplies. The effort has faced opposition from oil and gas trade group The American Petroleum Institute as well as those backing the renewable energy industry.

The IEA said coal will still be the largest source of electricity generation in 2022, though “renewables close the generation gap with coal by half in just five years.”

More: Solar power a clear leader, IEA report find

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