The year 2020 was an extremely challenging one across the world, as COVID-19 changed the way we live and disrupted many industries.
On the plus side, widespread lockdowns around the world led to less air pollution in places where that was traditionally a barrier for solar power generation. Countries like India and China experienced better air quality, leading to more solar production. The flipside? Global supply chains were heavily disrupted, which meant delays and shortages in the delivery of panels made in China to places around the world.
So outside of COVID-19, what were the other solar power changes we saw in 2020?
The pros and cons we saw in solar power during 2020
Renewable energy was resilient in the face of COVID-19 and there were many significant announcements around the world that were extremely positive. In the United States, California put in place a mandate that from 2020 all newly constructed homes are required to include solar panels, for example.
Here in Australia, we defied COVID-19 to add 6.3GW of new renewable energy capacity, including 2.9GW of solar power through new installations across the country. The number of industry projects around the country continues to soar and both the Federal and state/territory governments announced record investments.
In India, all 1.3 billion people were forced into lockdown but their clean energy transition continued. Even their solar projects continued to hit record highs as the population favoured renewable energy solutions over coal.
Beyond panels, solar battery storage prices continued to fall as well, making the technology more accessible to residential homes. The challenge remained in installations becoming difficult and more expensive to rollout, as panels became harder to ship and produce as mining operations closed down. But Australia, and many other countries, defied this to establish huge numbers in new installations.
What does the future look like for solar energy in 2021?
The addition of solar energy capacity did slow in countries all over the world in some way or another; we saw the first recorded year-on-year decline since the year 2000. However, we don’t believe this is cause for alarm – the industry is set to bounce back in a huge way in 2021.
Perhaps the largest thing to happen to renewable energy in 2020 was Donald Trump losing the presidency and his replacement Joe Biden announcing a record $400 billion over ten years to address climate change through clean energy and other technologies.
The result of this will see many countries emulate the US, pushing their interests into renewables. The talk of a COVID-19 vaccine and its effectiveness will also play a key role in how effective solar power can be.
No matter what’s on the cards, we expect 2021 to be an interesting time for the renewables space.