Renewables now provide a quarter of the world's power

Contracts for wind power were bagged at as low as Rs 2.64

Solar PV capacity grew faster than that of any other power source in 2016, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The country is seeking to reduce its reliance on coal and has become the world's largest market for renewables, particularly solar.

The United States is the second-largest growth market for renewables. "What we are witnessing is the birth of a new era in solar PV", said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. As Dr. Paolo Frankl, one of the lead authors on the report, said on a call to reporters, "In one year, China will install the equivalent of the total history of solar development in Germany".

IEA notes that India's renewable capacity expansion could be boosted by nearly a third, providing that existing grid integration and infrastructure challenges are addressed, policy and regulatory uncertainties are reduced, and costs continue to fall.

While China today is far and away the global leader in solar generation, a decade ago, the country had just 100 megawatts of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity installed. "That is half of the total capacity of coal fired power plants worldwide", said Frankl, "and it has taken 80 years to build all of those".

By then, renewables will account for 30 per cent of power generation, up from 24 per cent in 2016. "This marks a turning point and underpins our more optimistic solar PV forecast".

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The IEA, however, expects the growth in hydro power capacity to "slow significantly" beyond 2022, after a raft of new hydro projects come online. Along with India and the United States, the three will be responsible for two-thirds of renewables expansion by 2022.

By 2022, China is predicted to produce over 360 GW of green energy, representing 40 percent of the world's total output, according to the report.

"China's renewables growth is largely driven by concerns about air pollution", the Paris-based institution admitted.

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. The world is collectively expected to grow renewable electricity capacity by 43 per cent between 2017 and 2022. "Solar power is clearly the most important new clean energy source, with more new capacity added in 2016 than dirty coal", said Jan Erik Saugestad, CEO of Storebrand Asset Management.

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