Global renewable energy capacity expansion rose by 50% in 2023, IEA says

Renewable capacity is already 'on course' to increase by two-and-a-half times by 2030, agency says

A floating solar farm in Huainan, China. Bloomberg
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The rate of expansion of global renewable energy capacity surged by 50 per cent in 2023, with solar accounting for three-quarters of the growth, the International Energy Agency has said.

Renewable energy capacity added worldwide stood at nearly 510 gigawatts last year, up from 340 gigawatts in 2022, the agency said in its Renewables 2023 report released on Thursday.

The IEA had previously forecast a growth of 440 gigawatts for 2023.

China, the world’s second-largest economy, recorded the largest growth, with wind power additions rising 65 per cent year-on-year.

Last year, the country commissioned as much solar PV (photovoltaics) as the entire world in 2022, the IEA said.

Growth in renewable energy capacity in Europe, the US and Brazil also hit record highs, the agency added.

“Under current policies and market conditions, global renewable capacity is already on course to increase by two-and-a-half times by 2030,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA's executive director.

“It’s not enough yet to reach the Cop28 goal of tripling renewables, but we’re moving closer – and governments have the tools needed to close the gap,” said Mr Birol.

At the UN climate summit last month, countries agreed to work together to triple the world’s current renewable energy generation capacity to at least 11,000 gigawatts by the end of the decade, considering different starting points and national circumstances.

Under existing policies and market conditions, global renewable power capacity is now expected to grow to 7,300 gigawatts over the 2023-28 period, with solar and wind making up for 95 per cent of the expansion, the report said.

Renewables are also projected to overtake coal to become the largest source of global electricity generation by early 2025, the IEA said.

“There are still some big hurdles to overcome, including the difficult global macroeconomic environment,” Mr Birol said.

“The most important challenge for the international community is rapidly scaling up financing and deployment of renewables in most emerging and developing economies, many of which are being left behind in the new energy economy,” he added.

If policies related to renewable power are implemented more quickly, there could be a 21 per cent increase in clean energy capacity compared to the IEA’s baseline projection, the agency said.

That increased growth would push the world towards being “on track” to meet the global tripling pledge, it added.

Global trends

The IEA expects solar PV and onshore wind deployment through 2028 to more than double in the US, EU, India and Brazil, compared with the last five years.

Solar module prices, which nearly halved last year, will experience a further drop as manufacturing capacity reaches 1,100 gigawatts by 2024-end, the IEA said.

However, the wind industry, excluding China, is facing a “challenging” environment due to a combination of supply chain disruption, higher costs and long permitting timelines, the agency added.

The report also said that hydrogen project announcements need to be followed by “consistent” policies supporting demand.

Of all the projects announced this decade involving the use of renewables to produce hydrogen, only 7 per cent of the proposed capacity is expected to come online by 2030, the IEA said.

The slow pace of projects reaching an investment decision combined with limited appetite from off-takers has led to slower progress on many projects, the agency said.

Biofuels, which are derived from biological sources such as plants and animal waste, grew in popularity last year.

Emerging economies, led by Brazil and India, are expected to drive 70 per cent of global demand over the next five years as biofuels begin to play a bigger role in in hard-to-abate sectors such as air travel, the IEA said.

However, the deployment of the low-carbon energy source is not happening “quickly enough”, with a significant increase in demand required by 2030 to align with a net-zero pathway, the agency added.

Updated: January 11, 2024, 6:00 AM