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Renewables to have record-breaking growth in 2021 as COVID-19 fails to bite sector

Image: Getty.

Image: Getty.

Renewables have managed to overcome hurdles resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic as new analysis shows they will be responsible for nearly 90% of new 2020 power capacity.

This is according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), which released its analysis showing that renewables are to report a growth of around 7% this year, with the figure having been achieved due to a mix of long-term procurement contracts, priority access to the national grids and the continuous installations of new plants.

This is despite a global drop in demand, which is set to decline by 5%. Low demand was experienced in the UK during the height of the COVID-19 lockdown, however it is has since largely recovered.

The IEA is forecasting that wind and hydropower are to see the most growth this year, with solar PV to remain at similar levels to 2019, with 107GW of growth compared to last year’s 108GW. Overall, total renewable capacity additions will reach almost 200GW this year.

Next year is set to be even stronger for renewables, with capacity additions on track for a record expansion of nearly 10%. This is due to the commissioning of delayed projects in markets where construction and supply chains were disrupted due to COVID-19, the IEA said, with prompt government measures in key markets such as the United States, India and some European countries having allowed developers to complete projects after policy or auction deadlines.

It also pointed to continued growth in 2021 in markets such as the United States, the Middle East and Latin America where continued decreases in cost and uninterrupted policy support meant the pre-COVID-19 project pipeline was robust.

“Renewables are resilient to the COVID-19 crisis but not to policy uncertainties,” said Fatih Birol, chief executive at the IEA. “Governments can tackle these issues to help bring about a sustainable recovery and accelerate clean energy transitions".

The IEA also looked ahead to 2023, where it expects wind and solar capacity to exceed natural gas. By 2024, the two will also beat coal capacity, with solar to make up 60% of new renewable capacity additions by 2025.

“Renewable power is defying the difficulties caused by the pandemic, showing robust growth while other fuels struggle,” Birol continued.

“The resilience and positive prospects of the sector are clearly reflected by continued strong appetite from investors – and the future looks even brighter with new capacity additions on course to set fresh records this year and next.”

A more in depth look at the IEA's latest analysis can be read on sister site PV Tech.

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