Renewable Energy Now Accounts For a Third of Global Power Capacity: IRENA

The sector added 171 GW of generating capacity in 2018, with total renewable energy generation capacity reaching 2,351 GW at the end of the year.

Renewable Energy a Third of Global Power Capacity

The decade-long trend of strong growth in renewable energy capacity continued in 2018 with global additions of 171 GW, according to new data released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The annual increase of 7.9 percent was bolstered by new additions from solar and wind energy, which accounted for 84 percent of the growth. And now, a third of global power capacity is now based on renewable energy.  

IRENA’s annual Renewable Capacity Statistics 2019 indicates growth in all regions of the world, although at varying speeds. While Asia accounted for 61 percent of total new renewable energy installations and grew installed renewables capacity by 11.4 percent, growth was fastest in Oceania that witnessed a 17.7 percent rise in 2018. Africa’s 8.4 percent growth put it in third place just behind Asia. Nearly two-thirds of all new power generation capacity added in 2018 was from renewables, led by emerging and developing economies.

“Through its compelling business case, renewable energy has established itself as the technology of choice for new power generation capacity,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “The strong growth in 2018 continues the remarkable trend of the last five years, which reflects an ongoing shift towards renewable power as the driver of global energy transformation.

“Renewable energy deployment needs to grow even faster, however, to ensure that we can achieve the global climate objectives and Sustainable Development Goals,” continued Mr. Amin. “Countries taking full advantage of their renewables potential will benefit from a host of socioeconomic benefits in addition to decarbonising their economies.”  

The analysis also compared the growth in generation capacity of renewables versus non-renewable energy, mainly fossil-fuels and nuclear. While non-renewable generation capacity has decreased in Europe, North America and Oceania by about 85 GW since 2010, it has increased in both Asia and the Middle East over the same period. Since 2000, non-renewable generation capacity has expanded by about 115 GW per year (on average), with no discernible trend upwards or downwards.

Highlights by technology:

Hydropower: Growth in hydro continued to slow in 2018, with only China adding a significant amount of new capacity in 2018 (+8.5 GW).

Wind energy: Global wind energy capacity increased by 49 GW in 2017. China and the USA continued to account for the greatest share of wind energy expansion, with increases of 20 GW and 7 GW respectively. Other countries expanding by more than 1 GW were: Brazil; France; Germany; India; and the UK.

Solar energy: Solar energy capacity increased by 94 GW last year (+ 24 percent). Asia continued to dominate global growth with a 64 GW increase (about 70% of the global expansion in 2018). Maintaining the trend from last year, China, India, Japan and the Republic of Korea accounted for most of this. Other major increases were in the USA (+8.4 GW), Australia (+3.8 GW) and Germany (+3.6 GW). Other countries with significant expansions in 2018 included: Brazil; Egypt; Pakistan; Mexico, Turkey and the Netherlands.

Globally, total renewable energy generation capacity reached 2,351 GW at the end of last year – around a third of total installed electricity capacity. Hydropower accounts for the largest share with an installed capacity of 1,172 GW – around half of the total. Wind and solar energy account for most of the remainder with capacities of 564 GW and 480 GW respectively.

Ayush Verma

Ayush Verma

Ayush is a staff writer at saurenergy.com and writes on renewable energy with a special focus on solar and wind. Prior to this, as an engineering graduate trying to find his niche in the energy journalism segment, he worked as a correspondent for iamrenew.com.

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