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IRENA Renewable Energy Statistics 2021: 80% of all new added electricity was renewable in 2020

Every year the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) releases its statistical review of renewable power generation capacity. The 2021 edition presents comprehensive statistics for 2011-2020, based on data from a variety of sources and on measuring the maximum net generating capacity of power plants and other installations that use renewable energy sources to produce electricity.

In 2020, despite the economic downturn caused by COVID-19, global renewable generation capacity increased by 261 GW (+10.3%). Together solar and wind accounted for 91% of all net renewable additions in 2020, whereby total global solar capacity has now reached about the same level as wind capacity.

Solar power continues to lead in capacity additions, increasing by 127 GW (+22%). The largest solar energy expansion occurred in Asia with 78 GW added (compared to +55 GW in 2019), with China (+49.4 GW), Vietnam (+11.6 GW) and Japan (+5 GW) as the top three contributors. The Republic of Korea and India have increased solar capacity by more than 4 GW. In other regions, the United States added 14.9 GW of solar capacity in 2020, Germany and Australia – over 4 GW and the Netherlands and Brazil – about 3 GW.

Solar power is closely followed by wind power with 111 GW (+18%) added, and this is almost twice as much as in 2019. 72.4 GW of new wind capacity was added in China, followed by the United States (+14.2 GW). Although offshore wind remains a rather small part of the sector, its role continues to grow every year and reached around 5% of total wind capacity in 2020.

Hydropower capacity increased by 20 GW (+2%), bioenergy capacity by 2 GW (+2%), and geothermal energy by 164 MW.

Asia accounted for 64% of new renewable capacity in 2020, increasing by 167.6 GW with China making up most of that growth. At the end of the year Asia reached 1.29 TW, comprising 46% of the global total. Renewable capacity in Europe expanded by 34 GW (+6.0%) and global share grew to 22% (609 GW). North America's growth of 32 GW (+8.2%) was significantly driven by the USA. Africa continues to expand slowly but steadily, with an increase of 2.6 GW (+5.0%), slightly higher than in 2019. The continent accounts for 2% of global share. Australia was a major contributor to the increase in the fastest growing region in Oceania (+18.4%), although its share of global capacity is small.

At the end of 2020, the world’s total renewable generation capacity reached  2 799 GW. Hydropower accounted for the largest share of the global total, with a capacity of 1 211 GW, followed by wind with 733 GW and solar with 714 GW. Further renewable energy sources included 127 GW of bioenergy and 14 GW of geothermal energy, as well as 500 MW of marine energy. The renewable share of total generation capacity rose from 34.6% in 2019 to 36.6% in 2020.