2020 was remarkable in every aspect. With political scandals, coronavirus and a financial crisis, it was a relief to reach 2021, finally. Despite these challenges, 2020 was a progressive year for the renewable energy industry. Here’s our 2020 Renewable Energy Review.
What has happened in 2020 – Renewable Energy Review?
In the following, we list the most significant developments within the renewable energy sector. Sorted by fiscal quarters and months, you can easily navigate through the year.
Q1 2020 – Summarizing 2019’s renewable energy outcomes & Covid-19
Renewable Energy headlines dominated the start of 2020 with one record-breaking milestone after another. 2019 turned out to be a fruitful year for sustainable energy, however with some more headroom for further improvement.
Renewable energy unleashed its potential in the United States with several utility-scale projects approved by the state authorties. One of them was the largest combined solar & storage PV-Plant in the US. with a DC capacity of 690 MWp.
Furthermore, the EIA announced that three-quarters of the newly installed capacity would be renewable in the US. Shutting down 6 GWp of coal power will provide more space for sustainable energy sources.
Meanwhile, the European Union recognized that its 2030 green deal goals might be more challenging than initially estimated. Therefore, leading politicians agreed on reassessing the plan later this year to react accordingly.
China released a study on Levelized Cost Of Energy, concluding that renewable energy will be cheaper than its fossil fuel competitors by 2026. This development is positive because, despite China investing the most in renewable energy for consecutive serval years, these investments declined in 2019 for the first time.
The European Power Sector in 2019 Report unveiled that wind power was the biggest driver of the energy transition. Wind power on its own accounted for 84% of the renewable energy growth in Europe since 2015. Only a few countries were driving this growth development which leaves further upside for other countries.
On the other hand, Europe failed to reach its solar PV target growth rates and the goals set for other renewable energy sources.
For the first time in 2019, solar PV and wind power generation outpaced coal power in Europe.
Also, in the US wind power became the most used renewable energy source there is. The total capacity in operation reached 103 GWp of wind energy by the end of 2019.
The solar PV industry will double the total installed capacity within the next five years. At the end of 2019, a total of 73 GWp of solar PV generated renewable power for US residents.
Asia continues to topple Europe and the US by increasing its renewable energy share at lightspeed. The continent will become the global capital for solar power by 2050.
Due to the coronavirus spreading worldwide, renewable energy power plants, and the linked jobs in operation & maintenance or asset management, were classified as critical infrastructure. Although this meant that such companies didn’t rank for any stimulus packages, the industry kept going strong with its existing generation capacity. In contrast, many fossil fuel-powered generation sites stopped generation temporarily.
Furthermore, the oil market disruptions showed unprecedented volatility. The oil price plummeted to an all-time low of even negative prices. Such developments strengthened the renewable energy industry as no similar disorders occurred within the green energy sector.
At the end of March, the first effects of the COVID-19 epidemic showed a drastic reduction in air traffic and a total reduction of power consumption. Several media groups published articles propagating beneficial impact on the environment. However, these short-term effects, caused by lockdowns, will not last forever.
Q2 2020 – Everything Coronavirus & Renewable Energy on the rise
Looking back on the first half of the year, one can easily argue that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic dominated the industry. Postponed project pipelines, reorganized health and safety procedures, restructured scheduling for travel restrictions, and home office are only a few keywords to mention.
In early April, solar PV, wind and hydropower (only naming the most significant players) celebrated a massive victory over fossil fuel competitors. Oil and gas prices were still decreasing significantly, while renewable power remained on a constant level. Winning the public relations battle and strengthening sustainable energy in the market by earning the attribute of a “defensive industry”.
Nevertheless, COVID-19 did not leave the renewable energy sector untouched. Many countries introduced social distancing measures. These new safeguard prevented construction companies from proceeding with new installations and putting the growth rates to a temporary hold.
Both Germany and the UK made headlines with some stunning advancements. Renewables in Germany generated more than 50% of the power consumption. The UK broke a record with 18 consecutive days without coal power for the first time.
The US published that for the first time, renewables would generate more power than coal in 2020. Such a milestone seemed unthinkable only 10 years ago when coal still generated about 50% of the US total power consumption.
Great Britain was still going strong with a full month without coal power. Due to the lower consumption in the pandemic and surging renewables, the UK marked the first coal-free month since the industrial revolution.
Also, China expected to eventually reach grid-parity between coal and renewable power by the end of 2020.
Other countries like Austria pioneered towards blockchain use cases within the renewable energy industry. With an already working collaboration with the Energy Web Foundation, Austria started another trial to enable plus-energy districts via smart biomass application HotCity.
With the COVID-19 restrictions loosened in some countries construction works were able to go ahead again. Several governments tried to fire up their countries’ economy again while experts continued to warn about the virus and the importance to prepare for a hard winter ahead.
Nonetheless, many companies started to enable people to get back to work and start producing again. With that, the cry for high shares of renewable energy in the private sector got back into the center of attention. Amazon, one of the COVID-19 profiteers due to the increased online purchases, announced to be on track reaching the 100% renewable energy goal by 2025 already instead of 2030.
In mid-June, the UK’s incredible no-coal streak ended after an astonishing 67 days 22 hours and 55 minutes without using coal for power generation.
Q3 2020 – Back to normal?
During the third quarter of 2020 it may have felt as if the virus had taken annual leave. Filled public bathing beaches, incentives to get out and eat, many airlines back to a nearly normal business schedule, and the overall economy slowly back bouncing to steady pre-coronavirus values, indicated oppressive normality.
The EU Commission approved the RESS scheme to help Ireland reach its renewable energy target of 70% by 2030. This scheme called many big renewable energy players on board to engage in the EUR 7.2 – 12.5 billion RESS budget.
Other global investors resumed works on interrupted or postponed constructions of the past months due to many lifted restrictions.
By now, a majority of utilities accepted renewable energy projects to be the less risky option for doing business these days. Hence, another push for the entire industry became imminent.
Australia unveiled significant plans to become a renewable energy export superpower as soon as possible. Part of this project is an underground cable to Asia to export power. Despite “down-under’s” strong connection to coal power, this message was long overdue.
Egypt and Denmark signed an agreement to push Egypt’s ambitions towards their sustainable energy transition plans. With Denmark, a well-established player in the renewable industry, this partnership can act as a model of transferring knowledge and speeding up green deals.
One of the last coal mines in the UK has been shut. Due to the no-coal streak earlier this year, the UK has decided to take further action towards a coal-free future.
3.4 Trillion, that’s the estimated amount to be invested into renewable energy globally within the next decade.
Within the private sector, huge players like Apple announced further investments to nurture their 2030 climate neutrality ambitions. With two 200m-tall wind towers in Denmark, Apple will power its local data center and some 20,000 homes.
Q4 2020 – Solar PV became the cheapest energy source in history!
Another milestone reached for the renewable energy industry! Solar PV became the cheapest energy source in history, within the most significant countries globally.
Australia continues to chase its energy transition plans with multiple mega-projects. By introducing the Asian Renewable Energy Hub, a 15 GWp wind and solar PV hybrid plant and a 36 billion green hydrogen project in Western Australia’s desert.
Isreal started to catch up on its renewable energy policies with introducing a defensive 30% share target of renewables by 2030.
According to the latest numbers, Germany will reach its target of at least 50% of renewable energy within the power mix. At the end of October, the German power balance sheet showed 52.4%.
The EU surprised everyone when they discussed a 55% reduction in emissions compared to 1990. Eventually, the MP’s set the bar even higher and agreed on at least a 60% reduction.
The EU Commission released its plans on pushing offshore wind farms by investing EUR 1 Trillion until 2050. The proposed development should reach 60 GWp of offshore power by 2030 and 300 GWp by 2050.
The Renewables Report 2020, published by the IEA estimates a record-breaking share of 90% new power installations powered by renewable energy sources. An end to the 50-year reign of coal power will come true by 2025 – powered by renewable energy!
Another state in Australia joined the renewable energy alliance by announcing an AUD 32 billion funding package. With this plan, New South Wales indicated its desire to exceed all other Australian states within the coming decade.
India corrected their renewable energy plans from 175 GWp to 220 GWp by 2022. Currently, India’s renewable energy share accounts for 136 GWp – 36% of India’s total consumption and 4th largest capacity globally.
Joe Biden was elected president of the USA. One of the first measures he will take in his presidency is to rejoin the Paris 2050 agreement.
Amazon claimed to be the most significant corporate buyer of renewable energy with a total capacity of 6.5 GWp surpassing Google with 5.5 GWp.
Tasmania reached 100% renewable energy within their energy mix two years early. The Australian island state reached its goal with their 29th wind turbine going online this month.
Despite the ongoing epidemic, the US is set to break records of renewable energy installations in 2020. With more than 19 GWp of additional solar power installed, the US is catching up quickly.
The FY2020 has been a terrible year for so many people around the world. With an ongoing pandemic that has caused a financial crisis, it’s hard to conclude a positive development for anything. However, the renewable energy industry demonstrated to be truly resilient and defensive. Despite the many obstacles and setbacks, another year of breaking records are in the books.
One of the most significant accomplishments in 2020 was that renewable energy proofed to be able to work subsidy-free; especially solar PV. Enhanced technology, potent investors, dropping LCOE’s, and public awareness made it possible.
#buildbackbetter has become true in so many countries all over the world. Climate change doesn’t have a vaccine and can’t be neglected or ignored either. Hence, a vital drift towards sustainable handling of resources is the only answer humanity can give.