Energy

COVID-19 did not deter renewable power-generating capacity addition in 2020: Report

India placed third among countries that added the most solar water heating capacity in 2020

 
By Sumedha Awasthy
Published: Thursday 17 June 2021

Despite multiple setbacks the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic brought in its wake, 2020 was a year of significant growth for the renewable energy sector. The world added 256 gigawatt of renewable power-generating capacities over the year.

India placed third among countries that added the most solar water heating capacity in 2020; China ranked first. India placed fourth in terms of addition of total renewable power capacity as of 2020.

With an impetus in technology upgradation of transmission power networks, countries are able to invest in variable renewable energy (VRE). As many as nine countries have expanded their demand for the same by 20 per cent.

These were among the findings of Global Status Report, published by Ren21 Secretariat (an international policy network) in association with the global community of renewable energy actors from science, academia, non-profits, governments, and industry.

The crowd-sourced annual publication highlighted the key parameters of renewables such as policy landscape, market and industry trends, investment flows, energy systems integration and enabling technologies, energy efficiency, decarbonisation and business potential.

While there is a considerable increase in the addition of renewable energy sources, the usage of fossil fuel has been on the rise too. The report stressed on the need to decarbonise heating / cooling and transportation sector.

The report found that even a slight increase in the renewable heating / cooling capacities in buildings as compared to the levels of 2009 would increase the sector’s challenge to adopt renewables in terms of a massive upfront cost, fossil fuel subsidies, lack of supportive framework, resource availability and technology solutions.

It is to be noted that only 10 countries had renewable heat supporting policies as of 2020. Currently, 30 per cent of global electricity demand is being produced by renewable sources. The report claimed the penetration of RE in power sector could be due to the introduction of a number of ambitious policies regulating the sector.

Another energy-intensive sector is transportation, a major contributor to global warming. Only eight countries have banned the internal combustion engine vehicles to pave the way for electric vehicles so far. Biofuel blending is one of the key initiatives adopted by countries to support renewable energy in the transportation sector.

India has also adopted the mandatory policy to blend biofuel below 10 per cent.

As of 2020, the world collectively installed solar power generating capacities to the tune of 760 GW, out of which 6.2 GW is being generated via concentrating solar thermal power stations.

Asia accounted for 60 per cent of global solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity additions for the eighth consecutive year. There is a positive inclination towards thermal energy storage and concentrating solar power generating stations which are generally of large capacity usually adopt thermal energy storage. At present, 21 GW of thermal energy storage is functional globally.

With the falling price of the solar PV systems and ease of availability of technology solutions, ease of access to clean energy has been on the rise. Off-grid systems due to solar PV account for 50 per cent of the total mini grids by technology.

In a growing number of regions — including parts of China, the European Union (EU), India and the United States — it has already become cheaper to build new wind or solar PV plants than to operate existing coal-fired power plants.

Geothermal power sector is growing too; the US and Indonesia are the most active geothermal markets. EVs accounted for 4.6 per cent of total car sales in 2020; a million electric cars were sold in China alone.

 

Despite all impediments, there has been a detachment between global economic growth and carbon emissions. As many as 60 countries in 2021 adopted monitoring and verification policies with respect to carbon emissions compared to 10 countries in 2010.

As a result, energy intensive sectors are adopting energy efficient measures to lower carbon footprints. The future of renewable sector looks promising as more countries set net-zero goals that can lead to market transformation and lower the price of the renewable technology even further. 

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