IEA says China remains leader of renewables

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The amount of new solar photovoltaics (PV) outstripped the net increase in coal power in 2016, the latest renewables market analysis and forecast report from the agency said.

Net additions to renewable energy capacity in 2016, which include solar, wind, hydropower, bioenergy, wave and tidal, grew by 165 gigawatts (GW), six per cent more than in 2015.

For the first time ever, there were more grid additions from solar power than another other type of fuel, the International Energy Agency said Wednesday.

Dr Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, said: "We see renewables growing by about 1,000 gigawatts by 2022, which equals about half of the current global capacity in coal power, which took 80 years to build". China alone is expected to be responsible for 40 per cent of renewable capacity growth in the next five years, while India will double its renewable electricity capacity by 2022.

"The message is very clear: Competition is driving cost down at a pace which is much faster than it was in the past", said Dr. Paolo Frankl, head of IEA's renewable energy division, on a call with reporters.

The IAE predicted that China, India and America would account for two-thirds of global renewable expansion by 2022 and that renewables would account for 30 percent of global power generation, up from 24 percent in 2016.

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Despite policy uncertainty, the U.S remains the second-largest growth market for renewables, the report said. "This marks a turning point and underpins our more optimistic solar PV forecast".

China represents half of global solar PV demand, while Chinese companies account for around 60% of total annual solar cell manufacturing capacity globally.

"What we are witnessing is the birth of a new era in solar PV [systems]", he said in a statement.

In line with its recent determination to end up a victor in the renewable energy market, China led the way on building solar capacity. By the end of 2016, China had increased its solar PV capacity by almost 800 times, with more than 77 gigawatts now installed.

The stunning growth trajectories reflected in the IEA report show how quickly the transition to renewables can be underway when aggressive policies cut through the barriers to growth.

China has already exceeded its current five year plan for solar and 2017 is set to be another record year of installations. While coal is expected to remain the largest source of electricity generation in 2022, its lead over renewables will be halved.

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