World's renewable use to jump by a third, according to International Energy Agency

A row of solar panels in a green field
Solar power is a key part of the world's drive to renewable energy (Image credit: Jeremy Phillips)

Renewable energy capacity is expected to jump by a third this year thanks to higher fossil fuel prices and energy security concerns sparked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts the world’s total renewable electricity capacity will hit nearly 4,500 gigawatts, equal to the total power output of China and the United States combined.

Energy from wind and solar panels are expected to form the brunt of the investment thanks to the relative speed and ease with which they can be deployed.

Renewable energy set to hit record 107 gigawatts

The IEA’s Renewable Energy Market Update says global renewable capacity additions are set to soar by 107 gigawatts, the largest absolute increase ever, to more than 440 GW in 2023.

“This year, the world is set to add a record-breaking amount of renewables to electricity systems – more than the total power capacity of Germany and Spain combined,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol.

“The global energy crisis has shown renewables are critical for making energy supplies not just cleaner but also more secure and affordable – and governments are responding with efforts to deploy them faster.”

Surge in solar PV at heart of the increase

Solar PV additions will account for two-thirds of this year’s increase in renewable power capacity and are expected to keep growing in 2024, according to the new report. 

Wind power additions are forecast to rebound sharply in 2023 growing by almost 70% year-on-year after a difficult couple of years.

Consumers estimated to have saved €100bn in EU

Many European nations have implemented support for renewables, particularly in Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands, while restrictions on planning permission for renewable energy projects and domestic installation have been eased.

The Netherlands, for example, has implemented grants for large energy projects using geothermal heat and solar parks, smart technologies that combine production and storage or contribute to smart grids, and tax credits for a range of energy-efficient technologies.

Newly installed solar PV and wind capacity is estimated to have saved EU electricity consumers €100 billion during 2021-2023 by displacing more expensive fossil fuel generation.

Renewables boost in Europe due to Ukraine war

The forecast for renewable capacity additions in Europe has been revised upwards by 40% from before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which led many countries to boost solar and wind uptake to reduce their reliance on Russian natural gas.

Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine had a devastating effect on global energy markets, forcing up wholesale prices.

The EU has implemented a complete import ban on all Russian seaborne crude oil and petroleum products, covering 90% of current oil imports. The IEA said the boost to renewables would help Europe reduce its dependence on Moscow by about 8 billion cubic metres in 2023, rising to 17 billion in 2024.

China still world leaders in solar power

New policy measures are also helping drive significant increases in the United States and India over the next two years, the IEA states.

Despite the progress in Europe, China will account for almost 55% of global additions of renewable power capacity in both 2023 and 2024. 

A Bloomberg analysis found Beijing alone was responsible for nearly half of all renewable energy spending on the planet last year at $546 billion. That’s nearly quadruple the $141 billion that the US spent on clean energy and 2.5 times more than the $180 billion spent by the European Union.

For more information, check out our guide to installing solar panels.

Sam Webb

Sam is based in Coventry and has been a news reporter for nearly 20 years. His work has featured in the Mirror, The Sun, MailOnline, the Independent, and news outlets throughout the world.  As a copywriter, he has written for clients as diverse as Saint-Gobain, Michelin, Halfords Autocentre, Great British Heating, and Irwin Industrial Tools. During the pandemic, he converted a van into a mini-camper and is currently planning to convert his shed into an office and Star Wars shrine.