Though questions are being raised about whether renewables are on track to reach the massive targets set by the Paris Agreement, in terms of carbon emissions to curb the climate change; the rapid growth of renewable energy is highly appreciable. A global energy transition is seen towards low carbon economy. In the year 2015, the growth of renewable energy was the very fast and this was despite the huge drop in fossil fuel prices. A couple of main reasons were – the encouragement by governments for investments in renewables and the continuous reduction in capital costs due to technological advancement.
Renewable energy has replaced coal to become the largest installed electric power producer globally, as per the International Energy Agency (IEA). The achievement is due to no. of big solar and wind installations as well the awareness of the necessity of carbon emission curb at grass root level across the globe. This scenario has forced IEA to revise its projections about the growth rate of the renewables in the world.
The data collected in 2015 shows about half a million solar panels were being installed every day, and about two new wind turbines were being set up every hour in countries like China. Total 153 gigawatts of renewables capacity installed is more than half of the new electric power generation capacity added in 2015, this was 15% rise over 2014. Out of this, wind power contributed for 66GW, whereas photovoltaics at 49GW. The remaining capacity contributors were other renewable energy sources, such as hydroelectric and geothermal power etc. The IEA report also forecasts that renewables will be able to generate 100% of energy demand in the United States and Europe by 2021 if the present growth rate continues; i.e. just five years from today. The total energy demand in the United States and Europe is expected to be 7600 TeraWatt-hours in the year 2021. Wind and solar will contribute to nearly one-third of renewable generation, hydro to under 60% and balance by others.
The four areas of the world that are expected to dominate renewable installations are China, European Union, India, and the U.S. But each of these will have different results. For China and India, growing demand / rising economy means renewable alone will not be able to meet the demand. Hence the significant amount of fossil fuel or nuclear plants generating energy must be plugged in. But in the EU and US, in contrast, renewable additions will be much larger than the need for increased generation.