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The decade-long trend of strong growth in renewable energy capacity continued in 2018 with global additions of 171GW, according to new data released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) this week.

The annual increase of 7.9% was bolstered by new additions from solar and wind energy, which accounted for 84% of the growth.

According to the data, 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% of total new renewable energy installations and grew installed renewables capacity by 11.4%, growth was fastest in Oceania that witnessed a 17.7% rise in 2018.

Africa’s 8.4% 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.

Amin said the strong growth in 2018 continues the remarkable trend of the last five years, which he says 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,” he said.

Taking full advantage of renewables potential

Countries taking full advantage of their renewables potential will benefit from a host of socioeconomic benefits in addition to decarbonising their economies, said Amin.

IRENA’s 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 85GW 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 115GW per year (on average), with no visible 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 (+8.5GW).
  • Wind energy: Global wind energy capacity increased by 49GW in 2017. China and the USA continued to account for the greatest share of wind energy expansion, with increases of 20GW and 7GW respectively. Other countries expanding by more than 1GW were: Brazil; France; Germany; India; and the UK
  • Bioenergy: Three countries accounted for over half of the relatively low level of bioenergy capacity expansion in 2018. China increased capacity by 2GW and India by 700MW. Capacity also increased in the UK by 900MW
  • Solar energy: Solar energy capacity increased by 94GW last year (+ 24%). Asia continued to dominate global growth with a 64GW increase (about 70% of the global expansion in 2018). Maintaining the trend from last year, China, India, Japan and Republic of Korea accounted for most of this.

Other major increases were in the USA (+8.4GW), Australia (+3.8GW) and Germany (+3.6GW). Other countries with significant expansions in 2018 included: Brazil; Egypt; Pakistan; Mexico, Turkey and the Netherlands.

  • Geothermal energy: Geothermal energy increased by 539MW in 2018, with most of the expansion taking place in Turkey (+219MW) and Indonesia (+137MW), followed by the USA, Mexico and New Zealand.

Globally, total renewable energy generation capacity reached 2,351GW 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 564GW and 480GW respectively.

Other renewables included 121GW of bioenergy, 13GW of geothermal energy and 500MW of marine energy (tide, wave and ocean energy).

The full report is available here.