Who is installing renewable energy the fastest?
- Apr 21, 2021 8:10 pm GMT
Arguably, the fastest change in global energy systems in history is underway.
In 2020, new solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind capacity comprised 75% of global net new generation capacity according to the International Renewable Energy Agency. New PV and wind capacity was 10 times larger than net new hydro and coal capacity and 100 times larger than net new nuclear, carbon capture & storage, bioenergy, geothermal, solar thermal and ocean energy generation capacity. Extravagant deployment growth rates are required for other low-emission technologies to catch PV and wind.
The global per capita leaders in deployment of new renewable generation capacity in 2020 (Watts per person per year) were the Netherlands, Australia and Norway. They deployed new renewables per capita at 10 times the global rate and 3 times faster than China and the USA.
Australia has the most installed solar PV capacity per capita, ahead of Germany, the Netherlands, Japan and Belgium. Since the Australian solar resource in the populated southeast is 30-50% better than in those countries, Australia is by far the leading country in terms of per capita solar generation and also solar deployment speed.
Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, Germany and Norway are the global leaders in respect of installed per capita wind capacity (Watts per person). In 2020, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Australia led the per capita deployment speed (Watts per person per year).
The rapid rise to dominance of PV and wind in generation capacity construction has immense implications for greenhouse emissions trajectories through displacement of fossil fuels (which cause three quarters of global emissions).
PV and wind can readily decarbonize electricity systems. Electrification of most land transport (via electric vehicles) and heating (via electric heat pumps and electric furnaces) is relatively straightforward using existing widely-deployed technology. Thus, deep (~70%) emissions reductions can be made quickly, which buys time to decarbonize difficult sectors such as agriculture, the chemical industry and aviation.
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