The International Energy Agency (IEA) upgraded by its five-year forecast for global renewable energy expansion citing rapid competitiveness gains by solar and wind – but warned the growth would need to be twice as large again to hit global green goals.
The global energy body said 2019 will see renewed renewable growth after stalling last year – and at the fastest rate for four years, thanks to the growing penetration of PV.
The IEA declared distributed solar – especially commercial deployments on factories and offices – renewables’ new star performer as it predicted the world will add 1,200GW of renewable energy capacity between 2019 and 2024, a 50% increase on what’s in place now.
The central forecast in the IEA’s annual Renewables 2019 market report represents a 14% increase on the growth predicted a year ago, reflecting “continued cost reductions and policy improvements for solar PV as well as on- and offshore wind in key markets”. That would see renewables’ share of global power generation rise to 30% by 2024 from 26% today.
Solar accounts for 60% of the forecast rise, and the IEA reckons PV is becoming competitive with new fossil fuel plants faster than expected. Distributed solar – which the body says has “breathtaking potential” – will make up half of that solar growth.
The IEA report says: “Contrary to conventional wisdom, commercial and industrial applications rather than residential uses dominate distributed PV growth, accounting for three-quarters of new installations over the next five years. This is because economies of scale combined with better alignment of PV supply and electricity demand enable more self-consumption and bigger savings on electricity bills in the commercial and industrial sectors.”
The IEA’s central forecast expects onshore wind capacity to grow by 57% to reach 850GW by 2024, with a near-60GW installation boom next year thanks to the rush to collect the full benefit of the US production tax credit (PTC).
Offshore wind is tipped to add 43GW to reach a cumulative 65GW in 2024. The IEA says China will lead expansion, “with 12.5 GW in development through numerous projects having continued policy support under the FIT scheme”.
Despite the rapid expansion, the IEA accompanies its forecast with a now familiar warning that the growth is “ well below what is needed to meet global sustainable energy targets”.
“Renewables are already the world's second largest source of electricity, but their deployment still needs to accelerate if we are to achieve long-term climate, air quality and energy access goals,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director.
To match global climate and sustainability needs, expansion would need to follow the IEA's 'Accelerated' scenario, helped by reduced policy uncertainty, lower investment risk in developing markets, and better integration of wind and PV into power systems. That could underpin annual deployment rates 1,500GW above the central forecast over the whole period, the IEA reckons.