Solar Power Led Global Renewable Energy Additions Last Year


New data released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) shows that renewable energy continued to grow and gain momentum despite global uncertainties. By the end of 2021, global renewable generation capacity amounted to 3,064 GW, increasing the stock of renewable power by 9.1%.

Although hydropower accounted for the largest share of the global total renewable generation capacity, with 1,230 GW, IRENA’s Renewable Capacity Statistics 2022 shows that solar and wind continued to dominate new generating capacity. Together, both technologies contributed 88% to the share of all new renewable capacity in 2021. Solar capacity led with a 19% increase, followed by wind energy, which increased its generating capacity by 13%.

“This continued progress is another testament of renewable energy’s resilience,” says IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera. “Its strong performance last year represents more opportunities for countries to reap renewables’ multiple socio-economic benefits. However, despite the encouraging global trend, our new World Energy Transitions Outlook shows that the energy transition is far from being fast or widespread enough to avert the dire consequences of climate change.

“Our current energy crisis also adds to the evidence that the world can no longer rely on fossil fuels to meet its energy demand,” he adds. “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.

Sixty percent of the new capacity in 2021 was added in Asia, resulting in a total of 1.46 TW of renewable capacity by 2021. China was the biggest contributor, adding 121 GW to the continent’s new capacity. Europe and North America – led by the U.S. – took second and third places, respectively, with the former adding 39 GW, and the latter 38 GW.

Renewable energy capacity grew by 3.9% in Africa and 3.3% in Central America and the Caribbean. Despite representing steady growth, the pace in both regions is much slower than the global average, indicating the need for stronger international cooperation to optimize electricity markets and drive massive investments in those regions.

Growth in hydropower increased steadily in 2021, with the commissioning of several large projects delayed through 2021. Wind expansion continued at a lower rate in 2021 compared to 2020 (+93 GW compared to +111 GW last year).

With an increase in new capacity in all major world regions in previous years, total global solar capacity has now outgrown wind energy capacity. Net capacity expansion increased in 2021 (+10.3 GW compared to +9.1 GW in 2020).

Geothermal capacity had an exceptional growth in 2021, with 1.6 GW added. Off-grid capacity grew by 466 MW in 2021 (+4%) to reach 11.2 GW.

Read the full Renewable Capacity Statistics 2022 here.

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