At the moment, there is “unprecedented momentum behind renewable energy,” says the International Energy Agency. Renewable energy growth has been “turbocharged” by countries scrambling to deal with a global energy crisis triggered by war in Ukraine, according to a new analysis from the agency. In the next five years, as much renewable energy is expected to come online worldwide as has been added in the past two decades.
Renewable energy will account for as much as 90 percent of electricity capacity expansion over that five-year period, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA). By 2025, renewable energy is expected to overthrow coal and become the world’s largest source of electricity.
Solar and wind energy make up the bulk of that expansion. Solar capacity will nearly triple by 2027, while wind capacity will nearly double, thanks in part to falling prices. New large-scale onshore solar and wind farms are now the cheapest way to generate electricity in most of the world.
“An extraordinary new phase of even faster growth”
Overall, global renewable energy capacity is predicted to grow by 2,400 gigawatts in five years — a huge amount roughly equivalent to China’s power capacity. That figure is approx 30 percent higher than what the IEA predicted a year ago.
“Renewable energy was already expanding rapidly, but the global energy crisis has brought them into an extraordinary new phase of even faster growth,” IEA executive director Fatih Birol said in a statement.
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the beginning of this year, many Western countries pledged to turn their backs on fossil fuels from Russia. The European Union, which previously depended on Russia for nearly half of its imported gas supply, has accelerated its plans to transition to clean energy. Solar and wind energy in the EU broke records this year.
China, the country with the world’s largest carbon footprint, also released a plan this year to bring more renewable energy online. Renewable energy additions alone are expected to account for nearly half of globally expanded renewable energy capacity over the next five years, according to the IEA.
With all this added solar and wind energy, the IEA says the world still has a chance to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. That’s a goal that would curb many of the most dire impacts of climate change. But the window closes quickly to achieve this. The world could cross that important 1.5 degree threshold in just nine years, as greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels are still rising for now.