Two-thirds of new renewables were cheaper than coal in 2021


In 2021, 163 gigawatts (GW) – nearly two-thirds – of new renewable power added was cheaper than the cheapest coal-fired power plants in G20 countries, according to a new report released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

The G20, or Group of Twenty, is an intergovernmental forum comprising 19 countries and the European Union.

IRENA’s report, Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2021, states that the cost of electricity from onshore wind fell by 15%, offshore wind by 13%, and solar by 13% compared to 2020.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine drove up coal and natural gas prices, and high gas prices in Europe mean gas will become increasingly uneconomical.

As Electrek reported on Tuesday, plans in Europe to place a small number of coal plants on temporary standby would only add 1.3% to EU emissions annually, even in the worst-case scenario where they run at the highest levels.

 Francesco La Camera, director-general of IRENA, said:

Renewables are by far the cheapest form of power today.

2022 is a stark example of just how economically viable new renewable power generation has become. Renewable power frees economies from volatile fossil fuel prices and imports, curbs energy costs, and enhances market resilience – even more so if today’s energy crunch continues.

While a temporary crisis response might be necessary in the current situation, excuses to soften climate goals will not hold mid-to-long-term. Today’s situation is a devastating reminder that renewables and energy saving are the future.

United Nations Climate Change (UNCC) reports:

Investments in renewables continue to pay huge dividends in 2022, as highlighted by IRENA’s costs data. In non-OECD countries, the 109 GW of renewable energy additions in 2021 that cost less than the cheapest new fossil fuel-fired option will reduce costs by at least USD $5.7 billion annually for the next 25-30 years.

High coal and fossil gas prices in 2021 and 2022 will also profoundly deteriorate the competitiveness of fossil fuels and make solar and wind even more attractive. With an unprecedented surge in European fossil gas prices, for example, new fossil gas generation in Europe will increasingly become uneconomic over its lifetime, increasing the risk of stranded assets.

Read more: An increase in Europe’s coal power would be ‘negligible’ – study

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