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Worldwide renewable capacity growth stalled in 2018, IEA says

Renewables around the world added the same amount of net capacity in 2018 as they did in 2017, according to data from International Energy Agency, indicating “an unexpected flattening of growth trends that raises concerns about meeting long-term climate goals.”

IEA says 2018 was the first time since 2001 that growth in renewable power capacity failed to increase year on year. New net capacity from solar PV, wind, hydro, bioenergy and other renewable power sources increased by about 180 GW in 2018, the same as the previous year. That’s only about 60% of the net additions needed each year to meet long-term climate goals.

Renewables have a major role to play in curbing global emissions, IEA says. Renewable capacity additions need to grow by more than 300 GW on average each year between 2018 and 2030 to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement, according to the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS).

But IEA’s analysis shows that ast year, energy-related CO2 emissions rose by 1.7% to a historic high of 33 gigatonnes. Despite a growth of 7% in renewables electricity generation, emissions from the power sector grew to record levels.

Specific to hydro, capacity additions in 2018 were down from 2017, as 2017 was down from 2016. New hydro capacity in 2018 amounted to 20 GW, compared with 25 GW in 2017 and 36 GW in 2016.

“The world cannot afford to press “pause” on the expansion of renewables and governments need to act quickly to correct this situation and enable a faster flow of new projects,” said Dr Fatih Birol, IEA’s executive director. “Thanks to rapidly declining costs, the competitiveness of renewables is no longer heavily tied to financial incentives. What they mainly need are stable policies supported by a long-term vision but also a focus on integrating renewables into power systems in a cost-effective and optimal way.”

Since 2015, IEA says, global solar PV’s exponential growth had been compensating for slower increases in wind and hydropower. But solar PV’s growth flattened in 2018, adding 97 GW of capacity.

China accounted for almost 45% of the total capacity increase in renewable electricity last year. With new transmission lines and higher electricity demand, China’s wind additions picked up last year, but hydropower expansion continued to slow, maintaining a trend observed since 2013.