A testament to the viability and overwhelming growth of renewable energy capacity on a global scale was offered last week in an annual report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The document shows the world added more than 260 gigawatts (GW) last year, exceeding the previous year’s expansion by close to 50 per cent. IRENA’s annual Renewable Capacity Statistics 2021 shows that renewable energy’s share of all new generating capacity rose considerably for the second year in a row. More than 80 per cent of all new electricity capacity added last year was renewable. Solar and wind accounted for 91 percent of that new growth.
The upsurge occurred in spite of the economic slowdown caused by the COVID pandemic, with renewables’ rising share of the total being partly attributable to net decommissioning of fossil fuel power generation in Europe, North America and Eurasia.
Total fossil fuel additions fell to 60 GW in 2020, down from 64 GW the previous year, highlighting a continued downward trend of fossil fuel expansion.
China and the United States were the two outstanding growth markets last year. China, already the world’s largest market for renewables, added 136 GW, with the bulk coming from 72 GW of wind and 49 GW of solar. The United States installed 29 GW of renewables last year, nearly 80 per cent more than in 2019, including 15 GW of solar and around 14 GW of wind.
Officials with IRENA, an intergovernmental organization that supports countries in their transition to sustainable energy, say the findings reflect a history of resilience and hope. Despite the challenges and the uncertainty of 2020, renewable energy emerged as a source of undeniable optimism for a better, more equitable, resilient and clean future. They say that despite the difficult period, 2020 fulfilled earlier predictions and marked the start of a “decade of renewables.” Officials also note that costs are falling, and clean tech markets are growing, making the benefits of the energy transition very clear.
While the continued growth of low- and no-carbon renewables marks a major advance in efforts to stem climate change, their success in meeting climate challenges can only be maintained by the enabling policies and investments required to maximize clean energy production.
The discretionary fiscal 2021-22 budget proposal unveiled by the White House Monday offers encouragement to those who recognize the importance of clean energy in the effort to reverse climate change. The administration recognizes that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time, while offering an opportunity to create new industries and good paying jobs that can revitalize America’s energy communities and the economy, and position America as the world’s clean energy superpower.
The administration says that new climate change investments included in the budget proposal are $14 billion more than that requested for this fiscal year. The money aims to give nearly every federal agency – including the USDA – the ability to invest in resilience and clean energy, all while enhancing U.S. competitiveness and putting the nation on a path to achieve net-zero emissions no later than 2050.
Among the many proposals in the budget addressing climate change and boosting renewables are those that would invest in the assets of rural communities and create opportunity for rural Americans. This includes more than $300 million in new investments in the next generation of agriculture and conservation, including support for private lands conservation, renewable energy grants and loans. The discretionary request also supports $6.5 billion in lending to boost additional clean energy, energy storage, and transmission projects in rural communities.
The budget document also advances climate science and sustainability research, requesting more than $4 billion to fund a broad portfolio of research across multiple agencies including the Department of the Interior, NASA, the National Science Foundation and others to improve understanding of the changing climate and inform adaptation and resilience measures.
SfL shares the president’s belief that the nation must use every lever at its disposal to meet the massive challenges posed by a changing climate. Biden is correct in asserting that the appropriations process is a key opportunity to make real progress and to lay some lasting foundations. SfL urges stakeholders, including farmers, ranchers and forestland owners to closely follow the new spending bill when it makes its way through Congress and call on lawmakers to provide the funding and mechanisms that those in the agriculture sector can use, not only in meeting the challenges ahead, but in delivering near-term and high value mitigation solutions.
Solutions from the Land (SfL) builds and facilitates state, national and global initiatives and alliances through which farmers, ranchers, foresters and collaborating partners showcase examples of innovation and proactively advocate for policies, partnerships, investments and research that will enable agricultural landscapes to deliver near-term, cost-effective, integrated solutions to global mega-challenges: food and energy security; sustainable economic
development; climate change and environmental improvement. For more on SfL, click here.