Renewables continue their rapid advances amid supportive policy and falling costs

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has sharply upgraded its growth forecasts for renewable energy sources and now expects renewables’ share of power generation to rise to 28% by 2021. The main reasons cited are stronger policy backing in the US, China, India and Mexico, as well as falls in the cost of solar and onshore wind power.

The IEA reports that average global generation costs for new onshore wind farms fell by an estimated 30% between 2010 and 2015 and those for big solar panel plants by an even steeper two-thirds. Another average price drop of 15% and 25%, respectively, is projected over the next five years. According to the IEA, an unprecedented 153 gigawatts of green electricity was installed last year. As a result, renewables, including older hydropower dams, accounted for 23% of the world’s power in 2015. Coal power plants still supplied nearly 39%.

Despite renewables’ rapid advances, the IEA said they had to be used a lot more for heat and transport if the Paris climate agreement’s goal to stop global temperatures rising more than 2C was to be met. Key challenges cited by the agency include persistent policy uncertainty and challenges for power systems as a result of the rapid growth of intermittent wind and solar.

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