Renewable Energy Capacity Additions Reach Record Levels Of 161 Gigawatts In 2016

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The self-proclaimed “most comprehensive annual overview of the state of renewable energy” was published this week by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century, confirming reports from earlier this year that a total of 161 gigawatts of new renewble energy capacity was installed in 2016.

In March, the International Renewable Energy Agency published figures that showed a total of 161 gigawatts (GW) of new renewable energy capacity was installed in 2016, a record year for new capacity additions. In April, the United Nations Environment Programme published its own figures, revealing that renewable energy capacity additions for 2016 reached 138.5 GW (excluding large-hydro) despite the fact that investment figures fell by 23% — showcasing that renewable energy growth is now coming cheaper and faster.

This week, the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century, or REN21, published its own report confirming that 161 GW of new capacity was installed in 2016 and that investment levels were down 23% to only $241.6 billion. The Renewables 2017 Global Status Report (GSR) is billed as being “the most comprehensive annual overview of the state of renewable energy” in the world, which is presumably why its key highlight findings have already been reported by others — more time was presumably needed to ensure it was the ‘most comprehensive’ in the world.

Total capacity increased by almost 9% from 2015, reaching a cumulative capacity of 2,017 GW, with solar PV accounting for approximately 47% of the new capacity added in 2016, followed by wind power at 34% and hydropower at 15.5%.

The decrease in investment figures for the year compared to the increase in capacity additions further confirms the cost decreases we have seen happening over the past 18 months, especially in the solar and wind industry. Offshore wind costs have been plummeting over the beginning of this year, continuing a trend which we expect to see continue over the next few years. According to REN21, “Recent deals in Denmark, Egypt, India, Mexico, Peru and the United Arab Emirates saw renewable electricity being delivered at USD 0.05 per kilowatt-hour or less.”

“The world is adding more renewable power capacity each year than it adds in new capacity from all fossil fuels combined,” said Arthouros Zervos, Chair of REN21.

“One of the most important findings of this year’s GSR, is that holistic, systemic approaches are key and should become the rule rather than the exception. As the share of renewables grows we will need investment in infrastructure as well as a comprehensive set of tools: integrated and interconnected transmission and distribution networks, measures to balance supply and demand, sector coupling (for example the integration of power and transport networks); and deployment of a wide range of enabling technologies.”

However, the report also concludes that “the energy transition is not happening fast enough to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.” With investment figures down, and the transport, heating and cooling sectors continuing to lag behind the power sector in terms of renewable energy deployment, much more is needed, and soon.

“The world is in a race against time,” explained Christine Lins, Executive Secretary of REN21. “The single most important thing we could do to reduce CO2 emissions quickly and cost-effectively, is phase-out coal and speed up investments in energy efficiency and renewables. When China announced in January that it was cancelling more than 100 coal plants currently in development, they set an example for governments everywhere: change happens quickly when governments act — by establishing clear, long-term policy and financial signals and incentives.”

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Joshua S Hill

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (, and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at for more.

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