The renewable energy sector added 176 GW of generating capacity globally in 2019, marginally lower than the 179 GW 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. While 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.
Specific to hydropower, IRENA said growth was unusually low in 2019, possibly because some large projects missed their expected completion dates. At the end of 2019, global renewable generation capacity amounted to 2,537 GW. Hydropower accounted for the largest share of the global total, with a capacity of 1,190 GW. Globally, installed hydro capacity grew by 12 GW in 2019. China and Brazil accounted for most of the expansion, each adding more than 4 GW.
“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 recognize the degree to which the energy transition can deliver positive outcomes.”
“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,” continued La Camera. “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.
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 2 GW of renewable capacity in 2019, half of the 4 GW it installed in 2018.