Renewable energy rollout ‘turbocharged’ by global energy crisis, says IEA

Solar panels in Shanghai. China is on course to build nearly half of all new global renewable power capacity over the next five years (Getty)
Solar panels in Shanghai. China is on course to build nearly half of all new global renewable power capacity over the next five years (Getty)

The energy crisis has "turbocharged" renewable projects around the world, with countries on course to add as much renewable power in the next five years as they did in the past 20, according to a new analysis.

This means total renewable energy capacity growth will almost double by 2027 and see renewables overtake coal as the world’s number one source of power, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said.

The organisation, which works with countries to shape energy policies, said the shift could feasibly keep the 2015 Paris Agreement target of keeping warming down to just a 1.5C rise in global temperatures alive.

IEA’s Renewables 2022 report found that energy security concerns driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had increasingly motivated countries to reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels following huge price spikes, and instead turn to solar and wind power.

Global renewable power capacity is now expected to grow by 2,400 gigawatts (GW) over the 2022-2027 period, an amount equal to the entire power capacity of China today, according to the report.

The agency said this "massive" increase is 30 per cent higher than the growth forecast just one year ago, highlighting how quickly governments have thrown additional policy weight behind renewables.

The IEA also found that renewables are now on course to account for over 90 per cent of global electricity expansion over the next five years, with this rate meaning they will overtake coal to become the largest source of global electricity "by early 2025".

IEA executive director Fatih Birol said the scale of the energy crisis has resulted in the world rapidly hitting a turning point regarding desirable energy production means.

He said: “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 capitalise on their energy security benefits.

"The world is set to add as much renewable power in the next five years as it did in the previous 20 years. This is a clear example of how the current energy crisis can be a historic turning point towards a cleaner and more secure future world energy system."

He added: "Renewables’ continued acceleration is critical to help keep the door open to limiting global warming to 1.5C.”

While the war in Ukraine and resultant surge in fossil fuel prices mean governments, businesses and households are all seeking to move away from these polluting and economically volatile energy sources faster than ever, the IEA report says "an even faster deployment" could be made if states implement supportive policies.

In Europe, the amount of renewable power capacity added in the 2022-27 period is forecast to be twice as high as in the previous five-year period.

But the IEA said a more rapid roll-out of renewables could be achieved if the EU moved to streamline and reduce permitting times, improved auction designs and provided better visibility on auction schedules, and should also improve incentive schemes to support rooftop solar.

In the UK, prime minister Rishi Sunak is under growing pressure from his own party to make a U-turn to allow onshore wind projects to go ahead, but an effective ban on solar panels being placed on most areas of farmland remains in place.

Beyond Europe, the surge in renewable projects due to come online in the next five years is driven by China, the United States and India, "which are all implementing policies and introducing regulatory and market reforms more quickly than previously planned to combat the energy crisis," the IEA report said.

China is expected to account for almost half of new global renewable power capacity additions over the 2022-2027 period.

Meanwhile, the US government’s new Inflation Reduction Act, slashing tax on green industries, has provided new support and long-term visibility for the expansion of renewables.

Utility-scale solar PV and onshore wind are the cheapest options for new electricity generation in a significant majority of countries worldwide.

Global solar PV capacity is set to almost triple over the 2022-2027 period, the report said, with this expansion being enough to surpass coal and make solar PV the largest source of power capacity in the world.

The report has also forecast a further acceleration of installations of solar panels on residential and commercial rooftops, which the authors say will help consumers reduce energy bills.

As well as the surge in solar, global wind capacity will double over the forecast period, with offshore projects accounting for one-fifth of the growth.

Together, wind and solar will account for over 90 per cent of the renewable power capacity that is added over the next five years.