A new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) has found that global renewable energy electricity installation will hit record levels in 2020 compared to the sharp declines in the fossil fuel sectors caused by COVID-19. 

The report says that almost 90% of new electricity generation in 2020 will be from renewable energy sources, with 10% powered by gas and coal. This puts renewable energy electricity on track to become the largest power source by 2025, overtaking coal which has dominated the global power grid for the past 50 years and supplying one-third of the world’s electricity. 

Hydropower will continue to supply almost half of global renewable electricity, followed by wind and solar PV. 

The report forecasts that net installed renewable capacity will grow by nearly 4% this year, reaching almost 200 GW, driven by China and the US. 

Solar power capacity has increased 18-fold since 2010 and wind power four-fold, according to IEA data. Hydropower provided 77% of green power in 2010, but this has fallen to 45% in 2020.

Additionally, renewable energy is becoming increasingly appealing to investors. The report shows that shares in renewable equipment makers and project developers have outperformed most major stock market indices and that the value of shares in solar companies has more than doubled since December 2019. 

Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, says, “Renewable power is defying the difficulties caused by the pandemic, showing robust growth while others fuels struggle. The resilience and positive prospects of the sector are clearly reflected by continued strong appetite from investors.” 

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India and the EU will be the driving forces of even stronger predicted growth in 2021, according to the IEA. However, growth could decline slightly in 2022 under current policies. Birol says, “Renewables are resilient to the COVID crisis but not to policy uncertainties. Governments can tackle these issues to help bring about a sustainable recovery and accelerate clean energy transitions.

He continues, “In the US, for instance, if the proposed clean electricity policies of the next US administration are implemented, they could lead to a much more rapid deployment of solar PV and wind.”

Recent analysis by Vivid Economics for the Guardian shows that more of the COVID-19 recovery funds being spent by governments is going to fossil fuel sectors than green projects.

Jason Eis, the chief executive of Vivid Economics, says, “The natural environment and climate change have not been a core part of the thinking in the bulk of recovery plans. In the majority of countries we are not seeing a green recovery coming through at all.”

The EU is a frontrunner in this aspect, devoting 30% of its €750bn (USD$886bn) Next Generation Recovery Fund to green projects. France and Germany have set aside about €30bn ($35bn) and €50bn ($59bn) respectively of their own additional stimulus packages for green projects. 

China, however, is devoting just 0.3% of its €1.2bn ($1.4bn) package for green projects, while in the US, before the election, around €22bn ($26bn), or just over 1%, of the announced package was slated for green projects. 

Featured image by: Flickr