Renewable Energy Frontrunners


Five countries leading the installation and use of renewables


Note: The renewable power capacity data cited in this blog are “maximum net generating capacity of power plants and other installations that use renewable energy sources to produce electricity” in IRENA’s Renewable capacity statistics 2021 (IRENA, 2021). 

More and more countries are becoming vocal on their plans to decarbonise their energy sector. According to the Energy Transition Factbook prepared for the 12th Clean Energy Ministerial 31 May – 6 June 20211, more than two-thirds of governments worldwide already have at least a net-zero discussion. This means that more and more countries are considering, if not committing, to reduce their carbon footprint by increasing their generation and/or use of renewable energy, among other decarbonisation initiatives.

RE Frontrunners

IRENA (2021), Renewable capacity statistics 2021 International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Abu Dhabi

Based on the “Renewable capacity highlights” released by International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) (2021) in March 2021, total global renewable energy capacity reached 2,799 GW in 2020, 10.3 percent higher than the previous year. This figure is equivalent to a two percentage point increase in share in total energy capacity, reaching 36.6%.

What is evident is that most of the increase in capacity came from China and the United States, with other countries recording similar rise as in previous years. Let us then explore how the top five countries performed in 2020.


China has a total of 898.9 GW installed renewable energy capacity in 2020, a sharp 18-percent increase year-on-year. Wind energy installed capacity caused the highest increase as it grew 35 percent to 282 GW in 2020, comprising more than 31 percent of China’s total renewable energy capacity last year. Hydropower, China’s biggest renewable energy capacity at 38 percent of total, grew just 4 percent. Solar energy capacity in China also went up impressively by 24 percent and comprised 28 percent of total installed renewable energy capacity.


The United States recorded the second highest renewable energy capacity in 2020 at 292 GW, higher by 11 percent than the previous year. Wind energy reached 118 GW and represented 40 percent of the United States’ total renewable energy capacity installed during the year. However, it is solar energy that recorded the biggest rise in 2020 as it grew a quarter to reach 75.6 GW, dwarfing wind energy’s 14 percent growth. The United States’ hydropower rose 11 percent last year, while the country’s bioenergy and geothermal energy remained almost flat in 2020.


Brazil, while ranking only third in renewable energy installed capacity at 150 GW (up 4%), prides itself of having the highest percentage share (48.3%) of renewable electricity to total electricity generated (Empresa de Pesquisa Energética, 2021). Hydropower remains the top renewable energy in Brazil, comprising 73 percent of total capacity generated. However, hydropower was flat in 2020, failing to match the 11-percent growth in wind energy and the impressive 71-percent increase in solar energy in the same year. 


Like Brazil, India’s renewable energy growth in 2020 does not also match that of global numbers as it only rose four percent to 134 GW. The renewable energy mix in the South Asian country is quite balanced with Hydropower, wind energy and solar energy comprising 34 percent, 29 percent and 29 percent, respectively. Solar energy grew the fastest with a 12-percent increase, while hydropower and wind energy were almost flat in 2020. Bioenergy contributed eight percent of total renewable energy capacity.


Germany’s renewable energy capacity grew five percent to 131 GW in 2020, maintaining its fifth spot in the ranking. Wind energy and solar energy were the top contributors to renewable energy capacity at 47 percent and 41 percent, respectively. Solar energy, as in other countries above, grew the fastest at 10-percent rate last year. Bioenergy and hydropower comprised the other 12 percent of Germany’s renewable energy capacity, chipping in eight percent and four percent, respectively.


This article is written by Jeremiah Fajardo, Community Manager.

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Renewable capacity highlights (2021). International Renewable Energy Agency. Retrieved 19 November 2021, from

Country rankings (2021). International Renewable Energy Agency. Retrieved 19 November 2021, from 

Matriz Energética e Elétrica (2021). Empresa de Pesquisa Energética. Retrieved on 19 November 2021, from


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