REN21 report: Collaborative policymaking will advance impact of renewable power

Growth in renewable power has been impressive over the past five years, however, too little is happening in the heating, cooling and transport sectors. This is according to REN21’s Renewables 2020 Global Status Report, which also states that overall, global energy consumption keeps increasing, “eating up the progress made in renewable generation.”

The report points out that the journey towards a climate crisis continues, unless the world makes an immediate switch to renewable energy – in all sectors.

To make the switch, policy change is needed. The report shows that today’s progress is largely the result of policies and regulations initiated years ago, which focus on the power sector. Major barriers seen in heating, cooling and transport have remained in place for almost a decade. For progress to be made, policies must create the right market conditions in heating, cooling and transport. Plus, policymaking must be collaborative, with decisions spanning and connecting the different sectors.

The analysis provides a comprehensive overview of global developments in renewable energy markets, investments and policies in 2019.

This year’s report includes a feature chapter on citizen support for renewable power projects. Community action has played an important role in the push for renewables in 2019, as supporters called for change at both the local and global level.

Highlights from the report

  • There was only a moderate increase in the overall share of renewables in total final energy consumption (TFEC). As of 2018, modern renewable energy accounted for an estimated 11% of TFEC. This is only a slight increase from 9.6% in 2013.
  • In 2019, the private sector signed power purchase agreements for a record growth of over 43% from 2018 to 2019 in new renewable power capacity.
  • Despite significant progress in the power sector, the share of renewables in heating, cooling and transport continued to lag far behind due to insufficient policy support and slow developments in new technologies.
  • Although CO2 emissions remained stable in 2019, the world is not on track to limit global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius as stipulated in the Paris Agreement.
  • Climate change policies that directly or indirectly stimulate interest in renewables increased in 2019, spreading to new regions and reaching new levels of ambition.
  • Among the general public, support for renewable energy continued to advance alongside rising awareness of the multiple benefits of renewables, including reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. By year’s end 1,480 jurisdictions – spanning 28 countries and covering 820 million citizens – had issued “climate emergency” declarations.

Some hydropower highlights

The report delves into the hydroelectric power industry, providing the below insights:

  • The global hydropower market contracted in 2019, continuing a multi-year trend of deceleration.
  • Hydropower generation increased, reflecting new capacity as well as shifting weather patterns and other operational conditions. New capacity was an estimated 15.6 GW, raising total global installed capacity to around 1,150 GW. Hydropower generation varies from year to year, affected not only by changes in installed capacity but even more by shifts in weather patterns and other local operating conditions. In 2019, global generation was an estimated 4,306 TWh, an increase of 2.3% from 2018, or around 15.9% of the world’s total electricity generation.
  • Brazil took the lead in commissioning new hydropower capacity, marking the first year since 2004 that China did not maintain a wide lead over other countries for new installations. The top 10 countries together represented more than two-thirds of global capacity at year’s end. They are (in order) China, Brazil, Canada, the U.S., the Russian Federation, India, Norway, Turkey, Japan and France.
  • The hydropower industry is grappling with a web of challenges, ranging from technical and economic aspects of the industry to hydropower’s relationship with other renewable energy sources.
  • Global pumped storage capacity (which is counted separately from hydropower capacity) increased about 0.2% (0.3 GW) during the year, with almost all of this in a single installation in China.

Download the full report here.

This article was adapted from one posted on ESI Africa.

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