IEA says China remains leader of renewables

Joy Montgomery
October 5, 2017

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said solar accounted for nearly two-thirds of net new power capacity globally in 2016, having climbed by some 74 gigawatts on the previous 12 months. Capacity grew 50 percent past year - beating net growth from every other power source, including coal, for the first time. Coal in particular had continued to grow in recent years despite global targets to reduce carbon emissions.

Despite policy uncertainty, the U.S remains the second-largest growth market for renewables, the report said.

"Solar PV is entering a new era", said an ebullient IEA in its report.

China's push towards solar energy stems from the country's notoriously poor air quality, and in the country's 13th five-year plan, it announced an intention to increase the share of non-fossil energy to 15% by 2020.

And boosted by that expansion in the solar sector, "renewables will continue to have a strong growth in coming years".

"What we are witnessing is the birth of a new era in solar PV", Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, said in a statement accompanying the report published on Wednesday in Paris. Total solar PV capacity by then would exceed the combined total power capacities of India and Japan today, the IEA said. "This marks a turning point and underpins our more optimistic solar PV forecast".

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The rise in solar is mainly driven by developments in China, although there are other factors worldwide that help to explain its growth.

The IEA also recognised PV growth in 2016 also delivered record-low auction prices for electricity generation, which fell as low as 3 cents per kwh (or kilowatt hour), with emerging markets such as the UAE, Mexico and Chile becoming low price leaders.

China is leading the pack with solar PV accounting for about half of the total global expansion. India, on the other hand, "is expected to more than double its current renewable electricity capacity".

It also warned that growth of renewable energy in the European Union was set to be some 40 percent lower, as the bloc awaits the adoption of the EU's revised Renewable Energy Directive, which is now being discussed in the European Parliament, and would cover the period 2021 to 2030.

Although coal will still be the largest source of electricity generation in 2022, renewables is on track to close the generation gap with coal by half in just five years.

The agency added that it expects more than 920GW of clean power to be installed by 2022, an increase of 43%.

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