Global renewable energy capacity grew by the fastest pace recorded in the last 20 years in 2023, which could put the world within reach of meeting a key climate target by the end of the decade, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The world’s renewable energy grew by 50% last year to 510 gigawatts (GW) in 2023, the 22nd year in a row that renewable capacity additions set a new record, according to figures from the IEA.
The “spectacular” growth offers a “real chance” of global governments meeting a pledge agreed at the Cop28 climate talks in November to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030 to significantly reduce consumption of fossil fuels, the IEA added.
The IEA’s latest report found that solar power accounted for three-quarters of the new renewable energy capacity installed worldwide last year. Most of the world’s new solar power was built in China, which installed more solar power last year than the entire world commissioned the year before, despite cutting subsidies in 2020 and 2021.
Record rates of growth across Europe, the US and Brazil have put renewables on track to overtake coal as the largest source of global electricity generation by early 2025, the IEA said. By 2028, it forecasts renewable energy sources will account for more than 42% of global electricity generation.
Tripling global renewable energy by the end of the decade to help cut carbon emissions is one of five main climate targets designed to prevent runaway global heating, alongside doubling energy efficiency, cutting methane emissions, transitioning away from fossil fuels, and scaling up financing for emerging and developing economies.
Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, said: “It’s excellent news to see the historical and spectacular growth of renewable energy.” He added that while the report shows that global renewable capacity is already on course to increase by two-and-a-half times by 2030, it is not yet expected to reach the Cop28 goal of tripling renewables.
“We’re not there, but we’re not a million miles away,” Birol said. “And governments have the tools needed to close the gap.”
Birol downplayed concerns that fast-rising costs facing wind developers in the US and Europe will be a drag on the industry’s long-term growth. The combination of higher interest rates and supply chain costs has forced some developers to cancel big offshore wind projects, and raised concerns over the future of the technology.
“I would be very careful not to confuse a cyclical increase in costs with a structural increase in costs. Costs will continue to come down in the industry, as the cyclical costs of today begin to ease,” Birol said.
Emerging and developing economies will face challenges accessing finance, strengthening governance and creating robust regulatory frameworks which will be essential to reducing investor risk and attract investment, the IEA said, which may include establishing new targets and policies in countries where they do not exist yet.
“For me, the most important challenge for the international community is rapidly scaling up financing and deployment of renewables in most emerging and developing economies, many of which are being left behind in the new energy economy. Success in meeting the tripling goal will hinge on this,” Birol said.