Global renewable power capacity is set to grow as much in the next five years as it has over the past two decades, as soaring energy prices and the climate crisis force governments to ditch fossil fuels.
In a report published Tuesday, the International Energy Agency forecast a sharp acceleration in installations of renewable power. It now expects green energy to overtake coal to become the largest global source of electricity by early 2025.
Global renewable power capacity is now expected to grow by 2,400 gigawatts (GW) between 2022 and 2027, an amount equal to the entire power generating capacity of China today, according to the report. The increase is 30% higher than the Paris-based agency’s forecast of just a year ago.
“Renewables were already expanding quickly, but the global energy crisis has kicked them into an extraordinary new phase of even faster growth as countries seek to capitalize on their energy security benefits,” IEA executive director Fatih Birol said in a statement.
“This is a clear example of how the current energy crisis can be a historic turning point towards a cleaner and more secure energy system. Renewables’ continued acceleration is critical to help keep the door open to limiting global warming to 1.5 °C,” he added.
Soaring prices of most energy sources, including oil, natural gas and coal, have stoked inflation around the world and highlighted Europe’s previous over-reliance on oil and natural gas imports from Russia.
According to the IEA report, the war in Ukraine is a “decisive moment for renewables in Europe,” where governments and businesses are scrambling to replace Russian gas with alternatives.
The European Union now prohibits Russian crude oil imports by sea, setting up the bloc to have phased out 90% of oil imports from Russia by the end of the year. Flows of Russian natural gas via pipeline to Europe are now running at just 20% of their pre-war level, according to analysts.
“The amount of renewable power capacity added in Europe in the 2022-27 period is forecast to be twice as high as in the previous five-year period, driven by a combination of energy security concerns and climate ambitions,” the report said.
Policy and market reforms in China, the United States and India are also driving the growth in renewable power. China is expected to account for almost half of new global renewable power capacity added between 2022 and 2027, according to the IEA report.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act is expected to boost the expansion of renewables in the United States.
Most of the growth in renewables will come from investments into solar and wind power. Global solar generation capacity is set to almost triple over the next five years, with global wind capacity almost doubling over that period.
“Together, wind and solar will account for over 90% of the renewable power capacity that is added over the next five years,” the IEA said.
— Julia Horowitz contributed reporting.