In its latest report, the International Energy Agency said that last year, the world's capacity to generate electricity from renewable sources overtook coal, with renewables accounting for more than half the increase in power capacity. The report also revealed half a million solar panels were installed every day around the world and that in China, two wind turbines were set up every hour.
Renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar and hydro are seen as a key element in international efforts to combat climate change. It is the capacity to generate power that has overtaken coal at this stage, rather than the amount of electricity actually produced.
IEA's Executive Director Fatih Birol, said "We are witnessing a transformation of global power markets led by renewables."
The expansion of renewable capacity reflects the cost reductions for onshore wind and solar panels that the report describes as impressive; reductions that would have been "unthinkable just five years ago."
The IEA expects the trend of declining costs to continue and those two technologies are likely to account for three quarters of future growth in renewables. Another factor mentioned by the report is government policies that provide financial incentives for using renewable power sources.
The United Staes, for example, has extended tax credits. The report says policy changes in China, India and Mexico have also been important forces behind the increased forecast for the growth of the sector.
The IEA says the centre of gravity for renewable growth is moving to emerging markets. China, the report says, "remains the indisputable global leader of renewable energy expansion, representing close 40% of growth."
Reacting to the report, Ice Energy Founder and Managing Director, Andrew Sheldon said "This is another important milestone for renewables across the globe. The report's findings clearly demonstrate that renewables are the future and that importantly, more countries around the world are recognising this.
"While progress is undoubtedly being made, there is still room for significant improvement in renewable heat output. Last year saw Scotland increase its non-electrical heat demand from renewables by 3.8% which is impressive, but all countries need to be doing more to provide affordable and sustainable heating for the masses if we are to eradicate fuel poverty and remove our dependence on dwindling and expensive fossil fuels.
"Using ground source heat pumps to access stored solar energy in the ground and using that to heat entire communities within tower blocks, as we have done in London for example, shows this technology can work. More importantly, it can provide an improved total heating and hot water solution for residents at a much lower cost, thus targeting fuel poverty as well as the environment."