Government policies continue to play a crucial role in accelerating the adoption and deployment of renewable energy technologies, particularly in sectors other than power generation. Policies also continue to be critical for achieving renewable energy cost reductions and innovation.1 By the end of 2020, nearly all countries worldwide had in place renewable energy support policies, although with varying degrees of ambition.2 (See Figure 10 and Table 6.) In addition, renewable energy deployment continued to expand outside of government policies in the form of corporate commitments to renewables and utility-led activities. This was driven by market-based factors such as corporate action on climate change and the declining costs of renewable electricity.3 (See Feature chapter.)

Number of Countries with Renewable Energy Regulatory Policies, 2010–2020

Note: Figure does not show all policy types in use. In many cases countries have enacted additional fiscal incentives or public finance mechanisms to support renewable energy. A country is considered to have a policy (and is counted a single time) when it has at least one national or state/provincial-level policy in place. Power policies include feed-in tariffs (FITs) / feed-in premiums, tendering, net metering and renewable portfolio standards. Heating and cooling policies include solar heat obligations, technology-neutral renewable heat obligations and renewable heat FITs. Transport policies include biodiesel obligations/mandates, ethanol obligations/mandates and non-blend mandates. For more information, see Table 6 in this chapter and Reference Tables R8-R10 in GSR2021 Data Pack.

Source: REN21 Policy Database.

The year 2020 was critical for assessing progress on renewable energy targets. Worldwide, 165 countries had in place targets to increase uptake of renewables in various sectors by year’s end.4 Most of these targets were for the power sector, followed by targets for total final energy consumption, heating and cooling, and transport. However, success in actually being on track to meet the 2020 targets varied widely: overall, some 80 targets were achieved, while the majority (134) were not yet achieved according to the latest data available (ranging from 2017 to 2020). While some countries were close to achieving their targets, others were far from being on track. Moreover, as countries’ 2020 targets were coming to term at the end of the year, as many as 30 countries had not yet set new targets for future years (compared to 67 that had). Many of the achieved targets were for power, heating and cooling, and total final energy consumption, while very few were in the transport sector. ( See Figure 11 and Reference Tables R3-R8 in GSR 2021 Data Pack i.)

Status of Countries in Meeting Their 2020 Renewable Energy Targets and Setting New Ones

Note: Figure includes only countries with targets in these sectors that are for a specific share from renewable sources by a specific year, and does not include countries with other types of targets in these sectors.

Source: REN21 Policy Database. See Reference Tables R3-6 in GSR 2021 Data Pack.

Continuing a trend of the past decade – and despite the COVID-19 crisis – policy support for renewables generally remained strong throughout 2020. In some countries, economic recovery policies and funding packages related to the pandemic included explicit support for renewables, although, overall, far more support was allocated to fossil fuels.5 ( See Sidebars 3 and 4.) While the global health and economic disruptions affected the suite of renewable energy policies implemented during the year, such measures also evolved in response to greater action on climate change, the falling costs of renewables, evolving grid and system integration demands, and the changing needs and realities of different jurisdictions.

In jurisdictions with high shares of installed renewable energy, decision makers typically focused policy development on ensuring that support for renewables was cost effective, and on the technical and market integration of renewables. ( See Systems Integration section in this chapter.) In less-mature renewable energy markets and in some developing and emerging economies, policy efforts prioritised outcomes such as boosting renewable energy capacity and generation to meet demand, promoting energy security and providing increased access to energy.6 ( See Distributed Renewables chapter.)


Policies to advance the production and use of renewables can be targeted at any and all end-use sectors, including buildings, industry, transport and electricity generation. Most renewable energy policy in 2020 continued to focus on a single sector, although at least five countries unveiled comprehensive climate change policies that included support for renewables across multiple sectors. Trade policy also continued to have an impact on the production, exchange and development of renewable energy products, as well as on the demand for renewables within specific countries.7 ( See Box 4.)

A significant amount of renewable energy policy making continued to occur at the municipal level. However, this chapter covers mainly policy enacted at the regional, national and state/provincial levels of governance. Municipal policy is discussed in detail in the REN21 Renewables in Cities Global Status Reportii.




Climate Policies That Indirectly Support Renewables

Climate Plans That Directly Support Renewables




Road Transport

Biofuels in Road Transport

Electric Vehicles

Rail, Aviation, Shipping and Ports


Community Energy Arrangements