The IEA has raised its forecast for renewables compared with previous year, largely as a result of more solar in China and India, with China already exceeding its 2020 target for new solar power.
Net additions to renewable energy capacity in 2016, which include solar, wind, hydropower, bioenergy, wave and tidal, grew by 165 gigawatts (GW), six per cent more than in 2015.
"For the first time, solar PV additions rose faster than any other fuel, surpassing the net growth in coal", the agency said. That production will be equal to about half the globe's coal power capacity, in a fraction of the time it took to build all that coal power. The country is seeking to reduce its reliance on coal and has become the world's largest market for renewables, particularly solar. Along with India and the U.S., the three will be responsible for two-thirds of renewables expansion by 2022. Upward trends in China and India mostly drove the increase.
"What we are witnessing is the birth of a new era in solar PV [systems]", he said in a statement. "This year, it was equivalent to the total installed capacity of PV in Germany".
China remained the undisputed leader of renewable electricity capacity expansion over the forecast period with over 360 gw of capacity coming online, or 40 per cent of the global total.
Solar PV and wind together represent 90 percent of India's capacity growth as auctions yielded some of the world's lowest prices for both technologies.
"Still, the current uncertainty over proposed federal tax reforms, global trade and energy policies could alter the economic attractiveness of renewables and hamper their growth over our forecast period", the IEA's report read.
The surge of photovoltaics in China is largely due to government support for renewables, which are being demanded by a population concerned about air pollution and environmental degradation that has led to deadly smogs.
Although coal will still be the largest source of electricity generation in 2022, renewables is on track to close the generation gap with coal by half in just five years.
The International Energy Agency's annual outlook for renewable energy, released Wednesday, projects Canada's renewable capacity to grow by nine gigawatts between 2017 and 2022, down from last year's report that projected capacity would grow by 13GW.