Renewable electricity capacity growing, but not enough for CO2 neutrality by 2050

Renewable electricity capacity growing, but not enough for CO2 neutrality by 2050
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Despite a record number of technologies to generate green electricity being installed around the world this year, their capacity will still be insufficient to achieve global CO2 neutrality by 2050.

Renewable electricity is growing faster than ever worldwide as new capacity from solar panels and wind turbines are forecast to rise to 290 gigawatts (GW) in 2021, surpassing last year’s all-time high, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s ‘Renewables 2021’ report published on Wednesday.

“This year’s record renewable electricity additions of 290 GW are yet another sign that a new global energy economy is emerging,” said the IEA’s Executive Director Fatih Birol.

Renewable electricity and the development of such technologies is growing in popularity despite rising costs for key materials used to make solar panels and wind turbines.

“The high commodity and energy prices we are seeing today pose new challenges for the renewable industry, but elevated fossil fuel prices also make renewables even more competitive.”

A bright future but still work to do

The report found that by 2026, global renewable electricity capacity is forecast to rise more than 60% from 2020 levels to over 4,800 GW – equivalent to the current total global power capacity generated by fossil fuels and nuclear energy combined. This is largely down to “stronger support from government policies and more ambitious clean energy goals.”

Experts stressed that governments can further accelerate the growth of renewables by addressing key barriers, such as permits for the construction of such technologies, adapting electricity grids, and stimulating public support.

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Despite this accelerated growth and even if governments rally behind renewable energy, the deployment of such technologies would still fall far short of what would be needed in a global pathway to net zero emissions by 2050, according to the IEA.

It stressed that to reach this goal and to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, renewable capacity must double by 2026 compared to the IEA’s forecast.

New records in Flanders

Flanders has also experienced a record year for expanding renewable energy capacity, according to interim figures from the Flemish Energy and Climate Agency announced by Flemish Energy Minister Zuhal Demir. Yet renewable expansion has not been without controversy in the vastly populated region, with sites near residential areas being an especially sensitive issue.

Between January and October 2021, 50% more wind energy was commissioned than last year as an increasing number of land wind turbines were put into operation. This made 2021 the most successful year for new wind projects since 2017.

“For the first time in years, we are managing to increase the rate of investment in wind energy without falling back into excessive over subsidisation,” Demir said.

“We must move away from fossil fuels and towards a clean energy supply, of which wind energy is one.”

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