The construction of solar farms, wind turbines and other renewable energy sources will increase over the next five years as nations set tighter climate policies and more ambitious emissions targets.
The new renewable electricity will set a new record this year – 290 gigawatts, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency. This is roughly equivalent to building nearly 300 nuclear reactors or nearly 150 Hoover dams, and this is happening despite problems with the global supply chain, rising material costs and covid constraints.
By 2026, the global capacity of these carbon-free sources will increase by more than 60% from last year’s levels, the intergovernmental research organization now predicts. That would result in about 4,800 gigawatts, along with all the world’s fossil fuel power plants and nuclear power plants today.
In addition, renewable energy sources will account for 95% of total capacity growth in the energy sector during this period.
The construction of new wind and solar power plants does not necessarily mean that renewable energy sources are replacing fossil fuels, as energy demand is also growing. And it remains to be seen how quickly carbon-free sources will become the world’s dominant source of electricity and begin to rapidly displace coal, natural gas and other pollutants.
While renewable energy now accounts for most of the new capacity under construction, the level of electricity production by source can vary significantly from year to year, depending on displacement costs, weather conditions and more. But in the last few years, coal production has declined and solar, hydro and wind energy have increased, according to BloombergNEF. In fact, these three sources reports all growth in electricity production last year as electricity production from coal, natural gas and nuclear power plants declined.
The IEA’s estimates for 2026 are a significant upward revision, more than 40% higher than last year’s forecasts. Among other things, the agency cites improving the economy of renewable energy sources, increased national commitments to reduce emissions ahead of the recent UN climate conference and domestic development and policies.