Globally, renewable energy sectors including wind, solar, and hydropower are booming. The world is using more renewable energy than ever before. Over one third of the world’s electricity comes from renewable sources, according to data released by the International Renewable Energy Agency, or Irena, on Monday.
From 2018 to 2019, new renewable energy capacity construction slowed down slightly. But since the world also built less new fossil fuel infrastructure, renewables share in energy expansion grew. A record-breaking 72 percent of all the new electricity sources the world installed in 2019 were renewable.
Asia was responsible for much of that growth. The continent accounted for 54 percent of renewable capacity additions last year. And though the number of fossil-based plants also grew in Asia, as well as in the Middle East and Africa, that wasn’t the case everywhere. The U.S. and Europe closed down more fossil fuel-powered plants than they opened.
This is all good news, but it’s not good enough. The world needs to move to 100 percent renewable energy as quickly as possible. According to previous data from Irena, to avert utter climate catastrophe, the world must double investments in renewable energy by 2030.
And while it’s great that countries like the U.S. and those in Europe are closing down coal, oil and gas facilities, that’s not a great option for regions which actually need more energy capacity to ensure that all people can meet their basic needs. For instance, Africa, the world’s poorest continent, only increased its renewable capacity by about 4 percent last year.
Transition to all renewables will cost trillions of dollars, but it’s far cheaper than the cost of continuing down the road of building more fossil fuel infrastructure and letting emissions rise. The time to pour money into renewables is now, especially if we want to ensure that the covid-19 pandemic doesn’t derail the inroads no-carbon energy has begun to make. Last month, for instance, the Global Wind Energy Council warned that wind energy growth will “undoubtedly be impacted by the ongoing covid-19 pandemic, due to disruptions to global supply chains and project execution in 2020.” And India could delay major solar plants due to its lockdown. But by financially incentivizing investment into renewables (and not letting fossil fuel companies profit off of the pandemic), we can speed up the transition away from dirty energy.