How Fast Is Green Energy Growing?

How fast is green energy growing?

Green energy refers to renewable energy sources that are continuously replenished and cause little to no harm to the environment. These include solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, and biomass energy. Green energy is becoming increasingly important today as we work to transition away from fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas that pollute the air and contribute to climate change. According to the World Wildlife Fund, renewable energy sources currently provide 19% of global final energy consumption and significant growth is needed to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Transitioning to renewable energy is essential for building a sustainable future, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving public health, and mitigating climate change.

Current State of Green Energy

Renewable energy accounts for approximately one-seventh of the world’s primary energy supply as of 2020. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the share of renewables in total energy supply was 15% globally in 2020, up from 13% in 2019. The majority of renewable energy comes from hydropower, though other sources like wind, solar, bioenergy, geothermal and ocean energy are seeing rapid growth (Our World in Data).

The IEA reports that renewable energy supply from solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and ocean sources increased by close to 8% in 2022. This means the share of these renewable technologies in total global energy supply has risen to over 27%. While fossil fuels still make up over 75% of global energy supply, the adoption of renewables is accelerating in many parts of the world (IEA).

Growth of Solar Power

Solar power generation has seen exponential growth over the past decade. According to Solar Power Growth #1 in 2016, worldwide solar photovoltaic capacity increased by 50% in 2016 to 303 gigawatts. In the United States alone, solar installation grew by 95% in 2016.

The massive growth is expected to continue. The International Energy Agency predicts the world’s solar power capacity could grow by a further 43% in 2017, reaching over 500 gigawatts. This is largely driven by expansion in China. According to Solar Power in China Archives, China alone added over 34 gigawatts of new solar capacity in 2016, accounting for nearly half of the solar capacity added globally that year.

Growth of Wind Power

The growth of wind power capacity and installations in the United States has been rapid in recent years. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the US installed over 14 gigawatts (GW) of new wind power capacity in 2020. This represents a 30% year-over-year increase in capacity additions. The total installed wind capacity in the US reached 122 GW by the end of 2020.

The AWEA reports that wind power accounted for 42% of all new electricity generation capacity added in the US in 2020. This is higher than any other energy source for new capacity additions. Texas leads the nation with over 30 GW of installed wind capacity. Other top states include Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, and California.

Globally, according to the Global Wind Energy Council, over 93 GW of new wind power capacity was added in 2020, representing a 53% year-over-year increase. Total global installed wind capacity reached 743 GW by the end of 2020. The leading countries for total installed wind capacity are China, the United States, Germany, India and Spain.

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Growth of Other Renewables

In addition to solar and wind, other renewable energy sources like geothermal, biomass, and hydropower are seeing strong growth rates. According to the International Energy Agency, global hydropower generation is forecast to increase by 9.5% between 2019 and 2025, rising from 4,250 TWh to 4,650 TWh [1]. Geothermal capacity is also growing rapidly, with an average annual growth rate of 5% in recent years [2]. Biomass, which converts organic matter like plants into energy, accounts for nearly 8% of U.S. energy consumption and is the third largest renewable energy source after hydropower and wind [2]. With continued declines in cost and technological improvements, the growth trajectories for geothermal, biomass, hydropower and other renewables are expected to remain strong.

Government Policy

Government policies at both the federal and state levels have played a major role in encouraging the adoption of renewable energy in the United States. According to the EPA, as of 2021, 30 states plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico had renewable portfolio standards (RPS), which require electric utilities to supply a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable sources (Profiles Local Government Renewable Energy Policies). These standards create guaranteed demand for renewables. For example, California requires 60% renewable electricity by 2030 and 100% by 2045 (The influence of government policies on the electrical market).

The federal government also provides tax credits, loans, grants, and other incentives for renewable energy production and investment. Major policies include the production tax credit (PTC) and investment tax credit (ITC) which have spurred growth in wind and solar respectively. According to a 2006 study, 29 states offered personal tax incentives for renewable energy systems (An Assessment of the Existing U.S. Renewable Energy). These supportive policies at the federal, state, and local levels have paved the way for rapid growth of renewables across the country.

Corporate Adoption

Many major corporations are making commitments to switch to renewable energy sources like wind and solar power. This corporate adoption is driving rapid growth in green energy. For example, Apple has pledged to power all of its facilities with 100% renewable energy, including its offices, retail stores, and data centers (source). Google is another leader, announcing it has purchased enough wind and solar energy to cover 100% of its global operations (source). Other companies like General Motors, Walmart, and Starbucks have made major renewable energy commitments (source). As major corporations opt for renewables to save money and meet sustainability goals, this is fueling rapid growth in industries like solar panel and wind turbine manufacturing and installation.

Price Parity

Renewable energy sources like solar and wind are quickly reaching price parity with fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. According to a report from Energy Intelligence’s New Energy Data Service, renewable energy is projected to become cheaper than gas-fired generation globally by 2026. Key factors driving down costs for renewables include improving technologies, economies of scale, and competitive procurement practices.

Analysis from the investment bank Lazard shows that the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) for renewables has fallen dramatically in the last decade. The LCOE for utility-scale solar PV declined by 90% between 2009 and 2021. Onshore wind dropped by 71% over the same period. This makes renewables highly competitive with new natural gas plants. In many regions, building new renewable energy is now cheaper than operating existing coal and gas generators.

As a result, renewables like solar and wind are increasingly the most cost-effective option for new power generation capacity. Competition from low-cost renewables is also leading more utilities and corporations to retire existing fossil fuel plants and replace them with clean energy. The accelerating renewable energy transition is being driven primarily by simple economics, not just environmental policies.

Future Projections

Forecasts indicate that the growth of renewable energy is set to accelerate in the coming years. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), global renewable energy capacity is projected to grow to over 7,300 gigawatts (GW) by 2028 under current policies and market conditions. This represents an average annual growth of over 5% for solar and wind combined through 2028 (Reuters).

The IEA forecasts that renewables will contribute 80% of new power generation capacity through 2030, with solar alone accounting for over half of that growth. Under stated policy scenarios, total renewable power capacity could double from 2020 to 2030 (IEA). Many analysts expect growth to further accelerate as costs continue to fall and more ambitious climate policies are enacted. Longer term projections to 2050 foresee renewables supplying up to 90% of global electricity generation.

Key factors driving future growth include improving competitiveness against fossil fuels, energy security considerations, and the need to rapidly decarbonize power systems. With the costs of renewables decreasing quickly, growth is expected across both developed and developing economies worldwide. Realizing these projections will require concerted policy, investment, and technology efforts – but the transition to a renewable-based energy system is clearly underway.


In summary, green energy such as solar, wind, and other renewables has experienced tremendous growth over the past decade. This growth has been fueled by several factors including falling costs, supportive government policies, and increased corporate adoption of renewables. Key milestones like price parity with fossil fuels have been reached in several markets, making green energy an increasingly cost-competitive choice.

Looking ahead, projections point to continued rapid growth for green energy. As costs fall further and more ambitious climate goals are set by governments around the world, renewables are expected to play an ever greater role in energy generation globally. While fossil fuels will remain part of the energy mix, the energy transition towards lower carbon sources is clearly underway. With the right policies and investments, green energy can continue its remarkable growth trajectory in the years ahead.

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