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Tech / Renewables

IEA: Strong renewables growth continues in 2021

The share of renewable energy in the global electricity mix should hit an all-time high in 2021, says the International Energy Agency.

Renewable energy will continue to grab market share from fossil fuels in 2021. The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects strong renewable energy growth to increase the share of renewables in the global electricity generation mix to an all-time high of 30% this year.

“Combined with nuclear, low-carbon sources of generation well and truly exceed output from the world’s coal plants in 2021,” says the IEA.

A floating solar power farm off the northern coast of Singapore. (Photo by Roslan Rahman/AFP via Getty Images)

This growth is a continuation of recent trends. The IEA’s Global Energy Review 2021 finds that overall renewable energy use increased by 3% in 2020. Electricity generation from renewable sources rose by nearly 7% last year, pushing renewables’ share of the global electricity generation mix to 29%, up from 27% in 2019.

The IEA expects renewable electricity generation to jump by more than 8% in 2021 to reach 8,300 terawatt-hours (TWh). Almost half of the global increase in renewable electricity expected this year will be in China. Wind electricity generation should increase by 275TWh, or 17%, and solar PV generation should increase by 145TWh, or 18%, in 2021.

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However, renewables growth is tempered by a rebound in fossil fuel use and emissions. The IEA says global energy demand will grow strongly in 2021 as economies recover from pandemic lockdowns, and coal and gas use could rise above 2019 levels. Energy-related CO2 emissions could increase by 1.5 billion tonnes this year, which would be the second-largest increase in history.

CO2 and methane levels continued to rise in 2020, despite the pandemic shutdowns, says the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Global greenhouse gas emissions must fall by nearly 8% annually between now and 2030 to meet the 1.5°C Paris Agreement target, says the United Nations Environment Programme.