Solar energy was the fastest-growing source of electric power a year ago, a new report said on Wednesday, amid the "birth of a new era" for the reneweable energy sector. Coal in particular had continued to grow in recent years despite global targets to reduce carbon emissions.
The forecast is 12% higher than previous year, mainly as a result of upward revisions for solar additions in China and India.
"Still, the current uncertainty over proposed federal tax reforms, worldwide trade and energy policies could alter the economic attractiveness of renewables and hamper their growth over our forecast period", the IEA's report read. "What we are witnessing is the birth of a new era in solar PV", said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. The figure is set to increase by 43 percent over the next five years, said the report.
"This growth is enough to overtake renewable expansion in the European Union for the first time", the report said. That production will be equal to about half the globe's coal power capacity, in a fraction of the time it took to build all that coal power.
China installed 34 GW of solar capacity in 2016, out of a global total of 74 GW.
Electric vehicles numbers will double by 2022, but biofuels will still make up 93 percent of renewables consumed in the transport industry, the IEA estimates.
China, India and the USA are set to make up two-thirds of global renewable expansion by 2022. At this rate, renewables are expected to provide 30 percent of power generation by 2022.
The IEA added that Solar Photo Voltaic (PV) and wind together represent 90 per cent of India's capacity growth as auctions yielded some of the world's lowest prices for both technologies.
It also warned that growth of renewable energy in the European Union was set to be some 40 percent lower, as the bloc awaits the adoption of the EU's revised Renewable Energy Directive, which is now being discussed in the European Parliament, and would cover the period 2021 to 2030. As a whole, renewables represented almost two-thirds of new electricity capacity additions past year, far outshining coal and natural gas growth.
The International Energy Agency's annual outlook for renewable energy, released Wednesday, projects Canada's renewable capacity to grow by nine gigawatts between 2017 and 2022, down from last year's report that projected capacity would grow by 13GW.