Last week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) announced that it was significantly increasing its five-year growth forecast for renewables. In the latest edition of its Medium-Term Renewable Market Report, the IEA sees renewables growing 13% more between 2015 and 2021 than it did in last year’s forecast, due mostly to stronger policy backing in the United States, China, India and Mexico. Over the forecast period, costs are expected to drop by a quarter in solar PV and 15 percent for onshore wind.
Last year marked a turning point for renewables which represented more than half the new power capacity around the world, reaching a record 153 GW, 15% more than the previous year. Most of these gains were driven by record-level wind additions of 66 GW and solar PV additions of 49 GW.
About half a million solar panels were installed every day around the world in 2015. In China, which accounted for about half the wind additions and 40% of all renewable capacity increases, two wind turbines were installed every hour in 2015.
In the IEA’s assessment, there are many factors behind this remarkable achievement: more competition, enhanced policy support in key markets, and technology improvements. While climate change mitigation is a powerful driver for renewables, it is not the only one. In many countries, cutting deadly air pollution and diversifying energy supplies to improve energy security play an equally strong role in growing low-carbon energy sources, especially in emerging Asia.
Over the next five years, renewables will remain the fastest-growing source of electricity generation, with their share growing to 28% in 2021 from 23% in 2015.
Renewables are expected to cover more than 60% of the increase in world electricity generation over the medium term, rapidly closing the gap with coal. Generation from renewables is expected to exceed 7600 TWh by 2021 – equivalent to the total electricity generation of the United States and the European Union put together today.
The impressive rise in renewable energy capacity is largely due to newly installed wind and solar farms, all built from a variety of materials, including stainless steel. In wind power plants, stainless steel is used in a range of applications, from towers and turbines to fasteners, screws and bolting. Similarly extensive is the list of stainless steel applications in solar energy solutions. To learn more about them, read the ISSF brochure entitled Stainless Steel in Solar Energy Use.