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Renewables accounted for 72% of new power capacity globally in 2019 – IRENA

The renewable energy sector added 176 GW of power generating capacity globally in 2019, marginally lower than the (revised) 179 GW added in 2018. However, new renewable power accounted for 72 percent of all power expansion last year, of which solar and wind made up 90 percent of new additions, according to new data released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

Renewable generation capacity increased by 176 GW (+7.4%) in 2019. Solar energy continued to lead the capacity expansion, with an increase of 98 GW (+20%), followed by wind energy with 59 GW (+10%). Hydropower capacity increased by 12 GW (+1%) and bioenergy by 6 GW (+5%). Geothermal energy increased by just under 700 MW (graphic courtesy IRENA).

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)’s “Renewable Capacity Statistics 2020” report shows that renewables expanded by 7.6 percent last year with Asia dominating growth and accounting for 54 percent of total additions. While the expansion of renewables slowed in 2019, total renewable power growth outpaced fossil fuel growth by a factor of 2.6, continuing the dominance of renewables in power expansion first established in 2012.

Renewable energy is a cost-effective source of new power that insulates power markets and consumers from volatility, supports economic stability and stimulates sustainable growth. With renewable additions providing the majority of new capacity last year, it is clear that many countries and regions recognise the degree to which the energy transition can deliver positive outcomes, said IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera. “.

Renewables accounted for at least 70 percent of total capacity expansion in almost all regions in 2019, other than in Africa and the Middle East, where they represented 52 percent and 26 percent of net additions respectively. The additions took the renewable share of all global power capacity to 34.7 percent, up from 33.3 percent at the end of 2018.

While the trajectory is positive, more is required to put global energy on a path with sustainable development and climate mitigation – both of which offer significant economic benefits. At this challenging time, we are reminded of the importance of building resilience into our economies. In what must be the decade of action, enabling policies are needed to increase investments and accelerate renewables adoption said La Camera.

Non-renewable capacity expansion globally followed long-term trends in 2019, with net growth in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, and net decommissioning in Europe and North America.

Solar and wind dominate

Solar and wind contributed 90 percent of total renewable capacity added in 2019. Solar added 98 GW in 2019, 60 percent of which was in Asia. Wind energy expanded by close to 60 GW led by growth in China (26 GW) and the United States (9 GW).

The two technologies now generate 623 GW and 586 GW respectively – close to half of global renewable capacity. Hydropower, bioenergy, geothermal and marine energy displayed modest year on year expansion of 12 GW, 6 GW, 700 MW, and 500 MW respectively.

Asia was responsible for over half of new installations despite expanding at a slightly slower pace than in 2018. Growth in Europe and North America increased year on year. Africa added 2 GW of renewable capacity in 2019, half of the 4 GW it installed in 2018.

Highlights by technology:

  • Hydropower: Growth was unusually low in 2019, possibly because some large projects missed their expected completion dates. China and Brazil accounted for most of the expansion, each adding more than 4 GW.
  • Wind energy: Wind performed particularly well in 2019, expanding by nearly 60 GW. China and the United States continued to dominate with increases of 26 GW and 9 GW respectively.
  • Solar energy: Asia continued to dominate global solar capacity expansion with a 56 GW increase, but this was lower than in 2018. Other major increases were in the United States, Australia, Spain, Ukraine, and Germany.
  • Bioenergy: Expansion of bioenergy capacity remained modest in 2019. China accounted for half of all new capacity (+3.3 GW). Germany, Italy, Japan and Turkey also saw expansion.
  • Geothermal energy: Geothermal power capacity grew by 682 MW in 2019, slightly more than in 2018. Again, Turkey led with an expansion of 232 MW, followed by Indonesia (+185 MW) and Kenya (+160 MW).
  • Off-grid electricity: Off-grid capacity grew by 160 MW (+2%) to reach 8.6 GW in 2019. In 2019, off-grid solar PV increased by 112 MW and hydropower grew by 31 MW, compared to growth of only 17 MW for bioenergy.

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