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Bright future: Solar energy is leading the renewable energy charge

Solar energy: solar photovoltaics increased by 345.5 GW last year, while concentrated solar power increased by 0.3 GW.

Solar energy cells in London. Image © Tim Sandle.
Solar energy cells in London. Image © Tim Sandle.

Solar energy continues to dominate renewable generation capacity. According to a new report, solar energy accounted for 73 percent of the renewable growth last year, reaching 1 419 GW.

Solar energy was followed by wind power with a 24 percent share of renewable energy expansion. This is based on information collating and assessed in a report titled Renewable Capacity Statistics 2024. The report has been issued by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), an intergovernmental body that has United Nations observer status.

Among the more significant global changes are:

  • Solar energy: solar photovoltaics increased by 345.5 GW last year, while concentrated solar power increased by 0.3 GW. China alone added 216.9 GW to the total expansion.
  • Renewable hydropower (excluding pumped hydro): capacity reached 1 270 GW, with expansion lower than in recent years. Australia, China, Colombia and Nigeria added more than 0.5 GW each.
  • Wind energy: wind grew at an increased rate of 13 percent, following behind solar energy. By the end of 2023, total wind capacity reached 1017 GW. Expansion was dominated by China and the U.S.
  • Bioenergy: expansion continued to slow with a 3 percent increase, adding 4.4 GW compared to 6.4 GW in 2022. After China, major increases took place in Japan, Brazil and Uruguay. 
  • Geothermal energy: geothermal energy increased by a very modest 193 MW, led by Indonesia.
  • Off-grid electricity: capacity – in regions outside Europe, North America and Eurasia – grew by 4.6 percent, reaching 12.7 GW, dominated by off-grid solar energy which reached 5 GW by 2023. 

Despite the advances, the global community needs to achieve more. To reach internationally agreed energy reductions to limit global heating to 1.5°C, the report indicates that far more effort is required. Among the recommendations are a massive scaling up of financing and strong international collaboration in order to speed up the energy transition. In order to ensure success and to ensure the gains are equitable, putting developing countries first needs to a key priority.

The types of international investments required need to be orientated towards power grids, generation, flexibility and storage. The pathway towards tripled renewable power capacity by 2030 requires a strengthening of institutions, policies and skills.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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