Despite the disruption caused by the Coronavirus, the world’s renewable energy industry grew last year at its fastest pace (45%) since 1999.
Headline statistics contained in a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) confirm that wind energy led the growth boom, increasing its contribution by 90%, while solar energy capacity increased by nearly a quarter (23%). If the current rate of expansion can be maintained, the global energy watchdog is predicting that renewable energy will account for 90% of global power expansion in the next two years.
The momentum behind reducing global emissions appears now to be unstoppable as more nations sign up to the project. It is perhaps ironic that China is simultaneously the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases (due to its reliance on coal) and the superpower that is leading the charge towards the widespread adoption of renewable energies.
The country’s president, Xi Jinping, has pledged that China will be carbon neutral by 2060 which, according to independent experts, will require the country to shut down nearly 600 of its coal-fired power plants over the next decade. However, while China may face a daunting task, it is worth remembering that she is also one of the world’s largest suppliers of the raw materials needed to make wind turbines and solar panels – including silicon, glass, steel and copper – and that she is commissioning mega-scale projects that involve hydropower. She has cleverly put herself in a ‘win-win’ situation.
We must also not forget that the US, under the leadership of Joe Biden, is ploughing huge sums of money into infrastructure that is planned to make good the President’s pledge to cut emissions by half within the next 10 years. Nevertheless, Europe is expected to replace the US as the second largest renewable market in 2021. The IEA expecting the soaring demand for clean energy across Europe and the US to keep the global industry’s annual growth close to that achieved last year. The race for pole position is on.
Meanwhile, back on home soil, we can boast our own claim to fame: the UK is on course to account for a quarter of the world’s offshore wind capacity by 2022, making us the only country to generate more wind power offshore than on land. While the giants battle it out for ultimate supremacy, that is quite an achievement for us on the international scene.