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EGEB: US solar sets records in 2020, predicted to quadruple by 2030

In today’s Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB):

  • US solar will reach a total of 419 GWdc over the next 10 years, according to a new report.
  • Global clean energy investment must increase by 30% to $131 trillion by 2050 to avert the climate crisis, says IRENA.
  • UnderstandSolar is a free service that links you to top-rated solar installers in your region for personalized solar estimates. Tesla now offers price matching, so it’s important to shop for the best quotes. Click here to learn more and get your quotes. — *ad.

US solar growth

The US solar industry grew 43% and installed a record 19.2 gigawatts of capacity in 2020, according to the “US Solar Market Insight 2020 Year-in-Review” report released today by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Wood Mackenzie.

According to SEIA’s press release:

For the second year in a row, solar led all technologies in new electric-generating capacity added. According to Wood Mackenzie’s 10-year forecast, the US solar industry will install a cumulative 324 GWdc of new capacity to reach a total of 419 GWdc over the next decade.

The 8 GWdc of new installations in fourth quarter 2020 marks the largest quarter in US solar history. For perspective, the US solar market added 7.5 GWdc of new capacity in all of 2015. New capacity additions in 2020 represent a 43% increase from 2019 and breaks the US solar market’s previous record of 15.1 GWdc set in 2016.

California, Texas, and Florida are the top three states for annual solar growth for the second year in a row, and Virginia is the fourth state, installing more than 1 GWdc of solar PV. 

Residential deployment was up 11% from 2019, reaching a record 3.1 GW. This was lower than the 18% annual growth in 2019, as residential installations were significantly impacted by the pandemic in the first half of 2020. Non-residential installations declined 4% from 2019, with 2 GW installed. The pandemic impacted this segment through delayed project interconnections and prolonged development timelines.

There was a historic 6.3 GWdc of utility-scale projects installed in fourth quarter 2020, bringing the annual total just shy of 14 GWdc. A total of 5 GWdc of new utility solar power purchase agreements were announced in fourth quarter 2020, bringing the volume of project announcements in 2020 to 30.6 GWdc and the full utility-scale contracted pipeline to 69 GWdc.

SEIA president and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper said:

The action we take now will determine the pace of our growth and whether we use solar to fuel our economy and meet this climate moment.

The Biden administration’s recent two-year extension of the investment tax credit (ITC) will drive greater solar adoption. The SEIA’s goal is for solar to power 20% of US electricity by 2030.

The bill for net zero

Clean energy investment must increase by 30% to a total of $131 trillion by 2050 to avert the climate crisis, according to a new report, “World Energy Transitions Outlook,” released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

The World Energy Transitions Outlook preview outlines a pathway for the world to achieve the Paris Agreement goals and halt the pace of climate change by transforming the global energy landscape. 

IRENA asserts in its annual flagship report that proven technologies for a net-zero energy already exist. The agency predicts that renewables, green hydrogen, and bioenergy will dominate in the future.

Further, energy transition investment will need to increase by 30% to a total of $131 trillion between now and 2050, corresponding to $4.4 trillion on average annually.

Francesco La Camera, director-general of IRENA, which has more than 160 member states, said [via Reuters]:

The gap between where we are and where we should be is not decreasing but widening. We need a drastic acceleration of energy transitions to make a meaningful turnaround.

Fossil fuel use will need to drop by more than 75% by 2050, and natural gas use needs to peak in 2025. IRENA points out that governments can still use pandemic stimulus packages to accelerate the transition, but to date, those packages have favored fossil fuels.

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.