The previous record was set in 2019, when capacity of renewables rose by 179.7 GW – the increase in 2020 stood at 260.7 GW – easily outpacing increases in 2017 (170.4 GW) and 2018 (178.4 GW).
That contrast is underscored mainly by a boost in capacity for wind energy, which in 2019 increased by 58 GW and in 2020 by 111 GW.
An even greater increase (127 GW) was recorded in solar energy capacity — while hydroelectric, bioenergy and geo-thermal managed more modest increases (respectively – 10 GW, 2.5 GW and 0.16 GW).
As regards specific countries, the leaders were China and the United States which, when combined, accounted for boosted capacity of 165 GW. Growth in the United States of 29 GW was linked entirely to bringing wind and solar energy units on stream. In China, hydroelectric power and bioenergy provided for part of the increase (14 GW out of a total of 136 GW).
And by bringing on stream new wind (72 GW) and solar (49 GW) capacity, China overshadowed the efforts of other countries in the region – like Vietnam, which brought in an additional 11 GW in solar capacity, Japan (an additional 5 GW in solar capacity), South Korea (4 GW in solar) and India (4 GW in solar).
Turkey had the second largest total of new hydro capacity, with 2.5 GW, and Europe accounted for just under half of world-wide growth in bio energy capacity (1.2 GW of 2.5 GW).
The figures for 2020 are very similar to the medium-term forecasts of the International Energy Agency IEA). The IEA’s World Energy Outlook published six months ago suggested that by 2030, the average world-wide growth in capacity for hydro and bio energy (1.6 % and 3.3 % annually) will be slower than for solar and wind energy (6.9% and 11.6 % annually).
China, the IEA said, will remain the world leader in the sector – over a period of nearly 10 years from now, it will account for 35 % of global installations of solar and wind capacity, while the United States will account for 12 %.