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The renewable energy sector added 176GW of generating capacity globally in 2019, marginally lower than the (revised) 179GW added in 2018.

However, new renewable power accounted for 72% of all power expansion last year, according to new data released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

IRENA’s annual Renewable Capacity Statistics 2020 shows that renewables expanded by 7.6% last year with Asia dominating growth and accounting for 54% of total additions.

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Energy mix

While the expansion of renewables slowed last year, 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.

Solar and wind contributed 90% of total renewable capacity added in 2019.

“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,” said IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera.

“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.”

Accelerating renewables adoption

La Camera continued: “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.”

Renewables accounted for at least 70% of total capacity expansion in almost all regions in 2019, other than in Africa and the Middle East, where they represented 52% and 26% of net additions respectively.

The additions took the renewable share of all global power capacity to 34.7%, up from 33.3% at the end of 2018. 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 added 98GW in 2019, 60% of which was in Asia. Wind energy expanded by close to 60GW led by growth in China (26GW) and the United States (9GW).

The two technologies now generate 623GW and 586GW respectively – close to half of global renewable capacity.

Hydropower, bioenergy, geothermal and marine energy displayed modest year on year expansion of 12GW, 6GW, 700MW and 500MW 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 2GW of renewable capacity in 2019, half of the 4GW it installed in 2018.

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