Special Report

Countries Leading the Way in Solar Power

Now that President Joe Biden has returned the United States to the Paris Agreement on climate change, and with the surging costs of fossil fuels, there is renewed interest in renewable energy sources in America. That is reflected by the increase in solar power in the U.S. and other nations.

To identify the countries with the fastest-growing solar sectors, 24/7 Wall St. looked at the solar-generation growth rate from 2009 to 2019 from the British Petroleum “Statistical Review of World Energy” report. Generation of electricity is measured in terawatt (1 trillion watts) hours. All solar data came from the BP report. Population data for the 79 countries considered came from the World Bank.

In the report’s introduction, BP CEO Bernard Looney said, “Remarkably, wind and solar capacity increased by a colossal 238 GW [in 2020] – 50% ‎larger than any previous expansion. Likewise, the share of wind and solar generation in the global ‎power mix recorded its largest ever increase.” He added that carbon emissions from energy use fell by more than ‎‎6% in 2020, the largest decline since 1945. 

Worldwide solar electricity generation rose by a record 20%, and solar capacity expanded by 127 gigawatts, according to the BP report. While solar power generation is generally increasing and carbon dioxide emissions are generally declining, this is not true in all countries. These are the 25 countries increasing emissions the fastest.

In the U.S., solar power capacity has climbed to 97.2 gigawatts in 2021 from just 0.34 GW in 2008, according to the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Currently, 3% of U.S. electricity is derived from solar energy in the form of solar photovoltaics and concentrating solar-thermal power. Since 2014, the average cost of solar PV panels has slid about  70%. (Another renewable energy source is wind. These are U.S. wind farms generating the most electricity.)

The U.S., which is 34th on the list in terms of annual solar power growth from 2009 to 2019, was second in the world in solar generation in 2019 and 2020. China, 12th on the list, was first in solar generation in the same two years.

Eight countries on our list have solar-power growth rate per year from 2009 to 2019 of more than 100%. South America landed just two countries on the list. However, those two are among the top three in solar power growth rate. Nearly half of the 50 nations on our list are from Europe, and 16 are from Asia.

Click here to see the countries leading the way in solar power
Click here to see our detailed methodology

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