Another Record Renewable Year. We Need to Do Better.

December 2, 2021


It has been another record year for renewable energy, despite the Covid-19 pandemic and rising costs for raw materials around the world, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

About 290GW of new renewable energy generation capacity, mostly in the form of wind turbines and solar panels, has been installed around the world this year, beating the previous record last year. On current trends, renewable energy generating capacity will exceed that of fossil fuels and nuclear energy combined by 2026.

New climate and energy policies in many countries around the world have driven the growth, with many governments setting out higher ambitions on cutting greenhouse gas emissions before and at the Cop26 UN climate summit in Glasgow last month.

However, this level of growth is still only about half that required to meet net zero carbon emissions by mid-century.

Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, said: “This year’s record renewable energy additions are yet another sign that a new global energy economy is emerging. The high commodity and energy prices we are seeing today pose new challenges for the renewable industry, but elevated fossil fuel prices also make renewables even more competitive.”

According to the IEA report, published on Wednesday, renewables will account for about 95% of the increase in global power-generation capacity from now to the end of 2026, with solar power alone providing about half of the increase.

Raw material prices have risen as the world has emerged from the Covid pandemic and on the back of the energy price rises around the world. These price increases have cancelled out some of the cost falls of recent years in the renewable sector. If they continue next year the cost of wind power will return to levels last seen in 2015, and two to three years of cost falls in solar power will be wiped out.

Heymi Bahar, lead author of the report, said that commodity prices were not the main obstacles to growth, however. Wind and solar would still be cheaper than fossil fuels in most areas, he noted. Permitting was the main barrier to new wind energy projects around the world, and policy measures were needed to expand use of solar power for consumers and industry.

5 Responses to “Another Record Renewable Year. We Need to Do Better.”

  1. jimbills Says:

    “renewables will account for about 95% of the increase in global power-generation capacity”

    This shows WHY regulations and subsidies are vital. Renewables are filling the growth part of electricity demand on a yearly basis, but they aren’t replacing existing supply as yet. They’ll do that over time, as the older supply gets phased out, but that by itself will take decades. Regulations and subsidies come in as a carrot and stick to urge/force electricity suppliers to replace the existing sources rather than just build for new growth.

    Otherwise, we’ll pass the 2 degree threshold soon. And on top of that, electricity demand is due to grow rapidly in the next few decades, and battery storage will be required, adding to costs. To fill that new demand without adding fossil fuels will require real governmental support.

    “Permitting was the main barrier to new wind energy projects around the world, and policy measures were needed to expand use of solar power for consumers and industry.”

    • J4Zonian Says:

      Couple of things:
      We aren’t staying under 1.5. The chance of staying under 2 is practically 0.

      Once one accounts for corrections to the widely shared “net zero by 2050” lie, and admits we have to decarbonize by 2030 to have any hope of avoiding the end of civilization, one realizes we need to build RE not at twice the current speed but at least 10 times faster. Almost no one in mainstream politics, media or business is even mentioning the enormous, even earthshaking changes we need to make in agriculture (and therefore eating habits), industry, and forestry. Just stopping deforestation will take a complete reordering of global power and wealth structures, for example.

      Obviously in some places not ruled by the far right, where sane people live, clean safe reliable renewable energy is replacing fossil and even fissile fuels faster than just replacement rate. It can be done, and it’s not a question of “political will” (making this the equivalent of the ‘population’ argument, in which action that’s really concentrated in just a few hands is said to be shared equally by all. The purpose of the argument is to absolve those actually responsible and make everyone feel guilty so they’re less likely to act.

      Allowing the speed of change to be dictated by capitalism is quite insane, a mass murder-suicide pact on the world. (Capitalism is referred to, apparently without snickering, as “the market”, or even—laughably—”the free market” but what’s really meant is control by the oligarchy, since to the ruling far right, “freedom” means anarchy, which of course ends as control by one person.) That’s the speed and result intended by both US parties all along (except for both of them, who, as we can tell by the right’s dog whistle claims, want to slow the transition as much as possible. “All of the above”, “net near zero by 2590” etc.). Without China and Germany (and then Scandinavia, symbolically) breaking the club rules they would have succeeded by now in making it impossible for any cohesive civilization to emerge except in small, primitive compounds ruled by warlords.

  2. redskylite Says:

    According to Energy Mix, energy workers are beginning to shift allegiances . .

    “The proportion of oil and gas workers planning a move to renewables is up to 56% this year, from 38.8% in 2020, and 51% of renewables workers said they had entered a new sector in the last 12 months, the survey concludes.”

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      South Louisiana has long been known as pro-oil&gas, but between the driller’s canals and the more frequent major hurricanes hitting La., South Louisiana is going away. Ida comes through and there are fewer and fewer people willing and able to rebuild.

  3. John Oneill Says:

    ‘ On current trends, renewable energy generating capacity will exceed that of fossil fuels and nuclear energy combined by 2026.’
    Generating capacity is not the issue. What matters is how much carbon is burnt. And how much methane and nitrous oxide is released in the process.
    The richer countries – Western Europe, North America, Japan, Australasia – have static electricity demand ( though that should rise radically if they actually get serious about fossil retirement.) They’ve been adding more RE generation, but not retiring nearly as much fossils. Places like India and Africa have much lower capacity. At the moment, Norway, with five million people, is generating about 30GW. Nigeria, with 200 million people, is generating about three gigawatts. Seventy percent of that is from gas. They have daily power failures, so there is about four times the capacity in diesel generators, for those who can afford it, as grid capacity. Local noise and pollution are obvious issues. (Governor Newsome in California is heading in the same direction – he’s waived noise and air quality rules for backup generators when the grid’s under stress.)

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