IRENA has published Renewable Capacity Statistics for 2021, which are of particular interest in light of the world's efforts to reduce dependence on fossil fuels through the rapid development of renewable sources.
In 2021, global renewable generation capacity increased by 257 GW to the world total of 3,064 GW at the end of the year. This is an increase by 9.1%, about the same as in 2020. Hydropower accounted for the largest share in the global volume – 1,230 GW (40%), followed by solar (28%) and wind (27%). Other renewables (bioenergy, geothermal, marine energy) accounted for the rest 5%.
Solar and wind power continued to lead the way in renewable energy capacity additions, accounting for 88% of all net additions in 2021. Solar power increased by 133 GW (+19%), followed by wind power with 93 GW (+13%) and hydropower with 19 GW (+2%). Bioenergy increased by 10 GW (+8%) while geothermal energy increased by 1.6 GW.
Looking at renewable generation capacity by region, thanks to China, Asia led the way, accounting for 60% of new capacity in 2021 – 154.7 GW was added, 121 GW of which came from China. Renewable capacity in the Asian region accounted for 48% of the global total, reaching 1.46 TW. Capacity in Europe increased by 39 GW (+6.4%) and in North America by 38 GW (+9.0%), with the dominant increase taking place in the US (+32 GW). African renewable energy increased by 2.1 GW (+3.9%), which although slightly less than in 2020, shows steady growth.
Here are the key findings of the IRENA statistics by technology:
- Hydropower: increase by 19 GW (+2%). China is the clear frontrunner with 14.6 GW of capacity added, ahead of Canada with 1.3 GW.
- Solar energy: increase by 133 GW (+19%). Here China again leads the way with 53.0 GW, followed in Asia by India (+10.3 GW) and Japan (+4.4 GW). Elsewhere, the U.S. put in 19.6 GW of solar capacity in 2021, Brazil 5.2 GW. In Europe, three countries can be singled out Germany with 4.7 GW, the Netherlands and Spain (both over 3 GW).
- Wind energy: increase by 93 GW (+13%). In 2021, the rate of wind power expansion continued to decline (110 GW was added in 2020). China introduced 46.9 GW of new wind capacity, followed by the United States (+14.0 GW). It is worth noting the increasing importance of offshore wind, which reached 7% of new total wind capacity.
- Bioenergy: increase by 10.3 GW (+8%) compared to +9.1 GW in 2020. Here, too, China led the net expansion in Asia and the world, adding 6.2 GW. North America was the second region with notable expansion in 2021, adding 1.3 GW of bioenergy capacity.
- Geothermal energy: increase by 1.6 GW, of which 1.3 GW in the USA. Other new additions worth mentioning were recorded in Turkey (+63 MW), Italy (+30 MW) and Mexico (+25 MW).
Overall, most countries continued to build renewable energy capacity at about the same pace as in previous years, although growth slowed slightly in 2021 compared to 2020. Despite the dramatic increase in the use of renewable energy for power generation, most countries have not yet reached the point where renewable energy use is expanding more than the growth in energy demand.