According to the latest renewables market report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the world now has more capacity to generate electricity from renewables than from coal.
Calling it at “exceptional year”, the IEA remarked this week that 2015 was a turning point in the global power market, with half a million solar panels installed every day around the world.
Solar, wind, and hydropower have been growing faster than ever, and last year more than half of the planet’s new energy capacity came from these sources, seeing an increase of 15% from 2014. This translates to a record 153 Gigawatt capacity.
Capacity of electricity sources is not the same as actual production, however. By the end of 2014, only 23.7% of the world’s electricity was produced by renewables, according to Renewables 2015 Global Status Report.
However, thanks to the rapid growth of the sector, this week’s IEA report states that by 2021 that share could be as much as 28%, amounting to 7,600 terawatt hours - what the European Union and United States are generating right now.
“The IEA report confirms renewables will remain the fastest-growing source of power generation and will become more and more affordable,” says Professor Tim Flannery from Climate Council Australia.
Amongst factors contributing to this growth are steep cost reductions for the technology available, as well as government policies that encourage the use of renewables. Examples cited by the IEA are policy changes in China, India, Mexico and the United States. In large part, this is due to international commitment to mitigate the impact of climate change; however, diversification of energy sources is providing other benefits.
“In many countries, cutting deadly air pollution and diversifying energy supplies to improve energy security play an equally strong role in growing low-carbon energy sources, especially in emerging Asia,” IEA says in a statement.