Global renewable energy generation capacity increased by 167 gigawatts (GW) in 2017 to push the planet’s cumulative renewable energy capacity to 2,179 GW, according to new data published last week by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
IRENA published its Renewable Capacity Statistics 2018 report late last week, its most comprehensive and up-to-date analysis of global renewable energy capacity. Yearly renewable energy growth now sits at around 8.3% which is also the average growth seen over the past 7 years and represents the steady and solidified growth of a market well and truly making its presence known around the world.
“This latest data confirms that the global energy transition continues to move forward at a fast pace, thanks to rapidly falling prices, technology improvements and an increasingly favourable policy environment,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “Renewable energy is now the solution for countries looking to support economic growth and job creation, just as it is for those seeking to limit carbon emissions, expand energy access, reduce air pollution and improve energy security.”
“Despite this clear evidence of strength in the power generation sector, a complete energy transformation goes beyond electricity to include the end-use sectors of heating, cooling and transportation, where there is substantial opportunity for growth of renewables.”
Unsurprisingly, solar and wind energy both saw significant growth in 2017. Solar PV grew by an impressive 32% in 2017, followed by wind energy which grew by 10%. Both solar and wind can thank continued cost reductions that, in many cases, have surpassed even our wildest expectations. The levelized cost of electricity (LCoE) for solar PV fell by 73% between 2010 and 2017, while onshore wind fell by nearly 25%, and both can now boast LCoE well within the range of traditional fossil fuel technologies — and in some cases and regions are actually much cheaper, especially when you include externalities like health impacts.
Continuing unsurprising highlights from IRENA’s new analysis, China led the way in 2017 with nearly half of all new renewable energy capacity. India added its own 10% of new capacity, primarily in wind and solar, and helped the Asia region account for 64% of all new capacity additions in 2017, up from 58% in 2016.
Europe added a not-unrespectable 24 GW of new capacity, followed by North America which added 16 GW.
Asia dominated solar PV capacity additions with 72 GW — led by China with 53 GW, India with 9.6 GW, and Japan with 7 GW. The United States installed 8.2 GW worth of solar, followed by Turkey with 2.6 GW, Germany with 1.7 GW, Australia with 1.2 GW, South Korea with 1.1 GW, and Brazil with 1 GW.
Three-quarters of the total new wind energy capacity installed in 2017 came from five countries alone — China with 15 GW, the United States and Germany with 6 GW each, the UK with 4 GW, and India with 4 GW.