IRENA said in its ‘Renewable Capacity Statistics 2021’ report that new capacity in 2020 exceeded expansion in 2019 by close to 50%.
Renewable energy’s share of all new generating capacity rose considerably for the second year in a row, the agency added.
More than 80% of all new electricity capacity added last year was renewable, with solar and wind accounting for 91% of new clean power, IRENA said.
New solar installations totalled 127GW, while wind power stood at 111GW, the report said.
China added 136GW last year with the bulk coming from 72GW of wind and 49GW of solar.
The US installed 29GW of renewables last year, nearly 80% more than in 2019, including 15GW of solar and around 14GW of wind.
IRENA added that renewables’ rising share of the total is partly attributable to net decommissioning of fossil fuel power generation in Europe, North America and for the first time across Eurasia (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russian Federation and Turkey).
Total fossil fuel additions fell to 60GW in 2020 from 64GW the previous year highlighting a continued downward trend of fossil fuel expansion.
IRENA said that at the end of 2020, global renewable generation capacity amounted to 2799GW, with hydropower accounting for the largest share (1211GW).
IRENA director-general Francesco La Camera said: “These numbers tell a remarkable story of resilience and hope.
“Despite the challenges and the uncertainty of 2020, renewable energy emerged as a source of undeniable optimism for a better, more equitable, resilient, clean and just future.
“The great reset offered a moment of reflection and chance to align our trajectory with the path to inclusive prosperity, and there are signs we are grasping it.
“Despite the difficult period, as we predicted, 2020 marks the start of the decade of renewables.
“Costs are falling, clean tech markets are growing and never before have the benefits of the energy transition been so clear.
“This trend is unstoppable, but as the review of our World Energy Transition Outlook highlights, there is a huge amount to be done.
“Our 1.5 degree outlook shows significant planned energy investments must be redirected to support the transition if we are to achieve 2050 goals.
“In this critical decade of action, the international community must look to this trend as a source of inspiration to go further.”