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Renewable energy capacity at record high says IEA

Solar PV power station Renewable energy capacity Reuters/Oriental Image/Liang xiaopeng
The BESS project is a key part of EWEC’s strategy to achieve Abu Dhabi’s clean energy strategic target 2035
  • Capacity up 50% in 2023
  • Saudi Arabia leads Mena growth
  • Cheaper than new fossil fuel plants

Renewable energy capacity surged worldwide by 50 percent in 2023, putting the planet nearly on track to triple capacity by 2030 and limit the global temperature rise to 1.5C, analysts at the International Energy Agency (IEA) have announced.

Renewable reserves reached almost 510 gigawatts (GW) last year, up from 340 GW in 2022, with solar PV cells accounting for three quarters of additions, the IEA said in its annual market report on the sector.

China drove the growth of renewables in 2023, commissioning as much solar PV capacity as the whole world did in 2022, while its wind power capacity rose by 66 percent year-on-year.

The IEA’s executive director Fatih Birol said the expansion in capacity hit record highs in Europe, the US and Brazil and was starting to be seen in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena).

Renewable energy capacity expansion in the Mena region is expected to increase in the next five years at a rate more than three times faster than in 2018 to 2022, with solar PV making up to 85% of the increase.

More than a third of the growth will be in Saudi Arabia, followed by the UAE, Morocco, Oman, Egypt, Israel and Jordan. These seven countries account for more than 90% of the region’s growth.

“Onshore wind and solar PV are cheaper today than new fossil fuel plants almost everywhere and cheaper than existing fossil fuel plants in most countries,” Birol said.

The Paris-based agency expects global renewable power capacity to reach 7,300 GW by 2028, the fastest growth yet, with solar PV and wind power accounting for 95 percent of the increase.

However, only 7 percent of the announced clean hydrogen projects will come online by 2030, because of a smaller appetite from off-takers, buyers of electricity, for the product compared to other sources of power, and higher production costs.

At the UN climate conference Cop28 in Dubai last month, nearly 200 countries pledged to triple renewables capacity by 2030.

“The most important challenge for the international community is rapidly scaling up financing and deployment of renewables in emerging and developing economies,” Birol said. 

“Success in meeting the tripling goal will hinge on this.”

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