Renewables now the largest source of installed power in the world

Wednesday, 26 October, 2016

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has revealed that renewables surpassed coal last year to become the largest source of installed power capacity in the world, prompting the agency to significantly boost its five-year forecast for renewables growth amid sharp cost reduction and policy support in key countries.

The news has been received with interest by Australia’s Climate Council, which claims that the sunburnt country should be at the forefront of this global phenomenon but is in fact falling behind.

The latest edition of the IEA’s Medium-Term Renewable Market Report now sees renewables growing 13% more between 2015 and 2021 than it did in last year’s forecast, due mostly to stronger policy backing in the US, China, India and Mexico. Over the forecast period, costs are expected to drop by a quarter in solar PV and 15% for onshore wind.

About half a million solar panels were installed every day around the world last year. In China, which accounted for about half the wind additions and 40% of all renewable capacity increases, two wind turbines were installed every hour in 2015. Renewables are thus expected to cover more than 60% of the increase in world electricity generation over the medium term, rapidly closing the gap with coal.

But while Asia takes the lead in renewable growth, this only covers a portion of the region’s rise in electricity demand — for example, China’s 40% of global renewable power growth represents only half of the country’s electricity demand increase. This is in sharp contrast with the European Union, Japan and the US, where additional renewable generation will outpace electricity demand growth between 2015 and 2021.

Meanwhile, the Climate Council laments the fact that Australia’s renewable energy industry has been dealt blow after blow, citing the cut to the Renewable Energy Target and the funding cuts to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

Chief Councillor Professor Tim Flannery noted that Australia is “one of the sunniest and windiest countries in the world” and should thus be “positioning itself to embrace the opportunities of the renewable energy revolution”.

He said the IEA report, which confirms that renewables will remain the fastest-growing source of power generation and become more and more affordable, goes against Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s claims that coal will remain a strong part of Australia’s energy mix for decades to come.

The report can be found here.

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