2021 Global Renewable Energy Statistics

by | Dec 21, 2021 | Blog

Solar panels and windmills on a field

Summary

  • Renewable energy is the fastest-growing energy source across many countries worldwide. It could meet electrification demands, such as energy security and diversified energy infrastructure, without compromising the environment and human health.
  • About 80% of global energy comes from fossil fuels, 10% from nuclear and 29% from renewable sources. In 2019, renewable sources surpassed fossil fuels in the amount of energy provided to countries like Canada and the United States and continued this trend in 2021.
  • With increasing global electricity demand, renewable energy sources are expected to push the share of energy with low-carbon sources to an all-time high of 30% to provide mixed power generation. Energy hybrid systems will continue to evolve in the future to help achieve global net-zero climate goals.

Introduction

Renewable energy, such as wind, solar, hydropower and biomass, is thought to play an important role in the decarbonization of global energy systems in the years to come.

Since the industrial revolution, fossil fuels have dominated global energy consumption and still reign today. In fact, more than half of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions result from the combustion and burning of fossil fuels for energy. Hence, primary fossil fuel sources, such as coal, oil and gas, are accountable for global air pollution—a prominent environmental and human health issue that leads to almost 5 million premature deaths each year.

One study published in The Lancet Planetary Health Journal suggests that millions of lives may be saved if global leaders fully align their policies with their commitments to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Simply put, each country has to rapidly transition towards renewable, low-carbon energy technologies to help reduce global climate change caused by excessive GHG emissions.

Renewable energy, such as wind, solar, hydropower and biomass, will play an important role in the decarbonization of global energy systems in the years to come. However, many countries remain woefully short of reaching the emissions cuts required to meet such goals. This article shows timely data on global renewable energy systems, evaluating the share of energy they account for and how quickly this is changing.

Global Renewable Energy: Facts and Figures

In addition, China alone is expected to contribute nearly half of the global increase in renewable electricity in 2021, followed by the European Union, the United States, India and the rest of the world.

According to the latest market report by the US International Energy Agency (IEA), this year’s global renewable electricity generation is set to increase by roughly 8%, approaching at least 8,300 terawatts of power. This is, by far, the fastest interannual growth since the industrial revolution in the 1970s. In addition, China alone is expected to contribute nearly half of the global increase in renewable electricity in 2021, followed by the European Union, the United States, India and the rest of the world.

Among the primary renewable energy sources, wind has demonstrated the largest increase in global energy generation, from 175 to 275 terawatt-hours (TWh), equivalent to 17%. This rate is significantly higher than the previous year, 12%. The agency further reveals that strong policy deadlines in the countries mentioned above have greatly contributed to the notable increases in global wind power generation during the first few months of 2021.

Over the years, China has been keen to generate up to 600 TWh and the United States to yield 400 TWh. Together, these giant countries have represented a majority of global wind power generation in 2021.

Although having experienced a considerable decline in growth due to COVID19-related supply chain disruptions, the global solar power market is still anticipated to recover quickly by the end of the year. In fact, it is expected to see double-digit growth in 2022. While China holds the largest solar power market globally by 34%, expansion may continue in the United States, which accounts for about 15% of the global solar power market. Other top markets include India (6%), Japan (4%), South Korea (3%), Spain (2%), and Canada (1%).

The global hydropower market is expected to increase by 3% and the bioenergy market 10% further in 2021 and the year after. This could be achieved with a combination of global economic recovery and new renewable energy hybrid infrastructure, with China leading the way.
Illustration of innovative solar power monitoring via a drone

Closing Thoughts

The significant increase in figures throughout the year is just a positive representation of a bright future for the global renewable energy market.

The previous year may have significantly delayed global renewable energy procurement because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the challenges many countries faced in the wake of a global crisis have shown strong enthusiasm towards supporting global renewable energy applications for continued growth.

The significant increase in figures throughout the year is a positive representation of a bright future for the global renewable energy market. Opportunities on all sides are expected to grow exponentially moving forward, with more organizations adopting these sustainable measures and recognizing the multiple benefits of low-cost and low-carbon-emitting renewable energy.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is renewable energy?

Renewable energy is a type of energy collected from natural resources that constantly replenish. These include solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower and biomass energy. Renewable energy sources are practically inexhaustible, but the amount of energy available per unit of time is limited. Nonetheless, they play an essential role in supporting global energy security and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

 

What is the most used renewable energy source in the world?

Currently, water or hydrogen is considered the most widely-used renewable energy source. This power source accounts for about 18% of the world’s total power generation capacity and more than half of the global renewable power generation capacity. China has the largest hydroelectric generation in the world.

 

What are the top 5 renewable energy sources?

Other than hydrogen, some commercial renewable energy sources to watch are wind, solar, biomass and geothermal. These renewable energy sources currently make up at least 29% of the world’s electricity and are expected to increase by 30% in 2024.

 

Why is renewable energy so important?

As the global population increases, so does the demand for energy to power communities and industries. Adopting global renewable energy systems is necessary to help maintain a sustainable level of power generation across countries while protecting the entire planet from the threats of climate change.

 

Can renewable energy sources replace fossil fuels permanently?

Renewable energy sources may effectively replace fossil fuels with their ability to generate power without hurting the planet, creating significant environmental, social and economic benefits. In fact, renewables are expected to dominate global electricity generation by 2050. However, long-term studies and sufficient government subsidies are necessary to prioritize access to the grid and support the global installation of new power plants.