IEA Report: Renewable Energy Takes Lead Over Coal in Energy Capacity Last Year

Growth in new wind and solar projects helped renewable energy surpass coal as the largest global source of installed power capacity for 2015.

The International Energy Agency reported that in 2015 about 153 GW (gigawatts) of renewables (including 66 GW wind and 49 GW solar) were added. That was 15 percent higher than in 2014.

IEA forecasts renewable energy will be the fastest-growing source of electricity generation over the next five years. Global market share of power generation would increase from 23 percent in 2015 to 28 percent in 2021.

That will be good news to advocates of plug-in electrified vehicles, who can be demoralized by studies reporting that zero emission vehicles are offset by coal-powered electricity generation.

The agency reported that strong government policies to install new wind and solar energy projects, along with significant cost reduction, was a driver behind renewables surpassing coal as the largest source of power capacity.

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Strong support in the U.S., China, India, and Mexico are expected to support 13 percent growth in renewables between 2015 and 2021, according to the IEA. Over this period, costs are expected to drop by 25 percent for solar and 15 percent for onshore wind.

China accounted for about 40 percent of all renewable capacity increases last year.

Beyond government incentives and mandates, renewable capacity growth was driven by more competition, technology improvements, and climate change mitigation. In several countries, especially in emerging Asia, cutting air pollution and diversifying energy supplies have been key factors in renewable’s growth.

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