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Renewable power accounted for 70% of net additions to global power generating capacity in 2017, according to REN21’s Renewables 2018 Global Status Report.

However, the heating, cooling and transport sectors – which together account for about four-fifths of global final energy demand – continue to lag far behind the power sector.

The analysis also found that new solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity reached record levels; solar PV additions were up 29% relative to 2016, to 98GW.

“More solar PV generating capacity was added to the electricity system than net capacity additions of coal, natural gas and nuclear power combined. Wind power also drove the uptake of renewables with 52GW added globally,” states the report.

More than two-thirds of investments in power generation were in renewables in 2017, thanks to their increasing cost-competitiveness – and the share of renewables in the power sector is expected to only continue to rise.

China, Europe and the United States accounted for nearly 75% of global investment in renewables in 2017.

However, when measured per unit of gross domestic product, the Marshall Islands, Rwanda, the Solomon Islands, GuineaBissau, and many other developing countries are investing as much as or more in renewables than developed and emerging economies.

Energy-related CO2 emissions rising

Both energy demand and energy-related CO2 emissions rose substantially for the first time in four years.

Energy-related CO2 emissions rose by 1.4%. Global energy demand increased an estimated 2.1% in 2017 due to economic growth in emerging economies as well as population growth.

If the world is to achieve the target set in the Paris agreement, the report recommends that heating, cooling and transport will have to follow the same path as the power sector.

For these sectors to change, the right policy frameworks need to be put in place, driving innovation and the development of new renewable energy technologies in the sectors that are lagging.

“Equating ‘electricity’ with ‘energy’ is leading to complacency,” said Rana Adib, executive secretary of REN21.

“We may be racing down the pathway towards a 100% renewable electricity future, but when it comes to heating, cooling and transport, we are coasting along as if we had all the time in the world. Sadly, we don’t,” Adib added.

Arthouros Zervos, REN21 Chair, added: “To make the energy transition happen there needs to be political leadership by governments – for example by ending subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear, investing in the necessary infrastructure, and establishing hard targets and policy for heating, cooling and transport. Without this leadership, it will be difficult for the world to meet climate or sustainable development commitments.”

Download the full report here