IRENA: Solar Beats Wind In Record Year For Global Renewables Growth


Representing the strongest year yet for new capacity additions, global renewable energy generation capacity increased by 161 GW in 2016, according to new data released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

In total, by the end of last year, says IRENA, the world’s renewable generation capacity reached 2,006 GW.

“We are witnessing an energy transformation taking hold around the world, and this is reflected in another year of record-breaking additions in new renewable energy capacity,” says Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA’s director-general.

IRENA’s statistics show that last year’s additions grew the world’s renewable energy capacity by 8.7%. Leading that growth was solar energy, which recorded 71 GW of new additions.

Notably, the report says, 2016 marked the first time since 2013 that solar growth outpaced that of wind, which increased by 51 GW.

Of the new wind capacity, almost three-quarters was installed in just four countries: China (+19 GW), the U.S. (+9 GW), Germany (+5 GW) and India (+4 GW). Brazil continued to show strong growth with an increase of 2 GW, the report says.

As for new solar capacity, Asia, which added 50 GW, saw the most growth last year. Moreover, almost half of all new solar capacity was installed in China in 2016 (+34 GW). Other countries with significant expansion included the U.S. (+11 GW), Japan (+8 GW) and India (+4 GW). Capacity in Europe expanded by 5 GW to reach 104 GW in total; most expansion occurring in Germany and the U.K.

Hydropower and bioenergy capacities increased 30 GW and 9 GW, respectively – representing the best ever year for growth in bioenergy capacity. Geothermal energy capacity increased by just under 1 GW, IRENA notes.

According to the data, Asia accounted for 58% of new renewable additions in 2016; that gives it a total of 812 GW – or roughly 41% of the global capacity. Asia was also the fastest-growing region: It witnessed a 13.1% increase in renewable capacity.

Africa installed 4.1 GW of new capacity in 2016 – representing twice as much as that of 2015.

For the first time, this year’s edition of IRENA’s “Renewable Energy Capacity Statistics” report contains data specifically for off-grid renewables, whose capacity reached 2.8 GW at the end of 2016. Roughly 40% of off-grid electricity was provided by solar energy, and 10% came from hydropower. The majority of the remainder came from bioenergy. IRENA estimates that as many as 60 million households – or 300 million people – are served with and benefit from off-grid renewable electricity.

Speaking on the overall renewable energy growth globally, Amin adds, “This growth in deployment emphasizes the increasingly strong business case for renewables, which also have multiple socio-economic benefits in terms of fueling economic growth, creating jobs and improving human welfare and the environment. But accelerating this momentum will require additional investment in order to move decisively towards decarbonizing the energy sector and meet climate objectives. This new data is an encouraging sign that though there is much yet to do, we are on the right path.”

The full report can be found here.

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