IRENA: Global solar power capacity surpasses hydropower in 2023


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March 28, 2024



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March 28, 2024



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The world’s renewable electricity capacity additions in 2023 hit a record 473 GW, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) said. They accounted for 86% of all new capacity. China’s share in green power additions was a whopping 62.9%.

Photovoltaics nominally took over from hydropower as the biggest renewables segment. Global solar power capacity surged 32.4% to 1.42 TW and had a 73% share in annual additions. Total wind power surpassed 1 TW last year. The organization warned that many countries are cut off from the benefits of the energy transition.

The Renewable Capacity Statistics 2024  report, released by IRENA, shows that 2023 set a new record in renewables deployment in the power sector by reaching a total capacity of 3.87 TW globally. Renewables accounted for 86% of all capacity additions. However, growth is unevenly distributed across the world and the goal to triple renewable power by 2030 is still out of reach.

The 13.9% renewables expansion rate (473 GW) was led once again by China. The country accounted for a head-spinning 62.9% of the entire increase, with its 298 GW. Its own expansion amounted to 25.7%, to 1.45 TW.

For comparison, global growth was 10% in 2022. The level was revised upward from the initial reading.

China’s highest share in global additions last year was in wind power

Overall solar power capacity excluding concentrated solar power (CSP) expanded 32.4% to 1.42 TW, remaining the renewable energy sector’s main driver by far. China is in the front seat, with 62.8% of total additions and a national growth rate of 55.3% to 609 GW.

Photovoltaics crossed the 1 TW mark in 2022 while wind power achieved the landmark just before the end of last year. More precisely, the latter expanded 12.9% or 116 GW to 1.02 TW.

China contributed by far the most solar and wind power and bioenergy capacity in the world last year

Here, China participated with 65.5%, an even higher share than in photovoltaics or the total. Its growth amounted to 75.9 GW or 20.8% to 442 GW. The United States, while next in the world chart, connected only 6.3 GW to the grid, increasing the domestic wind power capacity by 4.5% to 148 GW.

All in all, solar power advanced by 346 GW in nominal terms last year in the world, compared to 116 GW in the wind power segment. But notably, wind farms generated 89% more electricity per unit of capacity in 2021 than photovoltaics, according to IRENA’s statistics.

La Camera: Global course correction urgently needed

Solar power had a 73% share in new renewables capacity and wind power was at 24.5%. It shows that growth disparity doesn’t only affect geographical distribution but also the deployment of technologies, the organization pointed out.

The patterns of concentration in both geography and technology threaten to intensify the decarbonisation divide, IRENA’s chief warned

“Policy interventions and a global course correction are urgently needed to effectively overcome structural barriers and create local value in emerging market and developing economies, many of which are still left behind in this progress. The patterns of concentration in both geography and technology threaten to intensify the decarbonisation divide and pose a significant risk to achieving the tripling target,” said Director-General of IRENA Francesco La Camera.

He urged decision makers to address planning questions such as grid flexibility. The 11 TW goal for 2030, adopted at COP28, now implies the need to add 1.05 TW per year. At the end of 2023, renewables accounted for 43% of installed electricity capacity.

Hydropower nearly flat at 1.27 TW

Hydropower capacity excluding pure pumped storage advanced just 0.6% to 1.27 TW, which means photovoltaics became number one last year. Again only nominally, as annual hydropower output is three times higher per unit of capacity. On the other hand, the sector is facing a heavy impact from droughts and climate change.

The bioenergy sector’s expansion continued to slow, coming in at 3%. Total capacity reached 150 GW. China accounted for 42.7% of growth and 31.3 GW in total. Geothermal energy increased by a modest 1.3% to 14.8 GW, led by Indonesia.

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