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IEA lifts renewables forecast for Europe, but China continues to dominate

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IEA lifts renewables forecast for Europe, but China continues to dominate

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Renewables to add over 1,000 GW capacity 2018-2023

Solar to add almost 600 GW, wind seen above 300 GW

IEA's 2018 RES report focuses on bioenergy potential

London — Solar power is set to dominate global renewable electricity capacity additions in the five years to 2023 while modern bioenergy "has huge prospects for future growth" in green transport and heat, the International Energy Agency said in its annual renewables report published Monday.

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Global renewable electricity capacity is forecast to expand by over 1,000 GW between 2018 and 2023, compared with a 920 GW forecast for the 2017 to 2022 period a year ago.

The IEA has revised its forecast up for Europe due to new auction announcements and higher 2030 targets, while US growth has been revised down due to tax reforms and trade tariffs.

It is China, however, that continues to dominate global renewable energy growth, responsible for over 400 GW of the IEA's 2018-2023 forecast.

By technology, solar PV will continue to dominate renewable electricity capacity expansion, forecast to add almost 600 GW by 2023 with total global installed capacity reaching 1 TW.

Wind remains the second-largest contributor to capacity growth with over 300 GW expected to be added worldwide and growth rates similar to last year's forecast, despite a drop in installations in 2017.

Spurred by technological progress and significant cost reductions, offshore wind capacity is expected to triple with projects moving beyond Europe to Asia and North America, it added.

On a regional level, China will become the largest consumer of renewable energy, surpassing the European Union by 2023, the IEA said.

RES BEYOND ELECTRICITY: BIOENERGY

While renewable power is expected to account for almost a third of world electricity generation by 2023, up from nearly 25% today, renewable energy expansion in transport and heat is less assured because of weaker policy support, the IEA said.

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Overall, electricity accounts for less than 20% of global energy consumption. As such, bioenergy remains the single largest source of renewable energy because of its widespread use in heat and transport, sectors in which other renewable technologies currently play a much smaller role, the IEA said.

"Modern bioenergy is the overlooked giant of the renewable energy field," the IEA's executive director Fatih Birol said. "Its share in the world's total renewables consumption is about 50% today... as much as hydro, wind, solar and all other renewables combined."

The report has a special focus on modern bioenergy, a "blind spot" in the energy sector that did not receive enough attention but is critical to sustainable development.

It identifies untapped potential for bioenergy to decarbonize energy consumption in industry and transport.

"But the right policies and rigorous sustainability regulations will be essential to meet its full potential," Birol said, with Asia and Latin America (especially Brazil) set to dominate biofuel production growth.

--Andreas Franke, andreas.franke@spglobal.com

--Edited by Alisdair Bowles, alisdair.bowles@spglobal.com