According to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), solar power was the fastest-growing source of new energy in 2016, beating out all other energy sources, including coal. New solar capacity increased by 50% globally in 2016, with China accounting for almost half of this expansion. Despite current uncertainty about renewable energy policy in the United States, the US is still the second-largest growth market for renewables. By 2022, India is expected to more than double its current renewable electricity capacity. The IEA predicts that these three countries alone will account for two-thirds of global renewable energy growth by 2022. According to Fatih Birol, IEA’s executive director, this rapid growth in 2016 indicates a “new era” for solar energy, which is driven by continuous reductions in the technology’s cost and market dynamics in China resulting from policy changes.
Looking beyond solar energy, renewables overall accounted for two-thirds of all new energy capacity in 2016. IEA sees renewables growing “by about 1,000 GW (gigawatts) by 2022, which equals about half of the current global capacity in coal power, which took 80 years to build.” According to Birol, “while coal remains the largest source of electricity generation in 2022, renewables close in on its lead.”