In recent years, renewable power generation and capacity installations have been growing while renewable power costs have been steadily falling, making the case for renewable energy as a low-cost solution to rising carbon emissions in the long-term.
Although the share of renewables in the energy mix varies from one country to another and from one market to another, all analyst forecasts point to a continued growing trend of renewable energy deployment around the world.
Currently, a third of global power capacity is based on renewable energy sources, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) said in a report in April 2019.
Renewable energy capacity added 171 gigawatts (GW) globally in 2018, up by 7.9% on the year, driven by capacity additions in solar and wind energy which together accounted for 84% of last year’s growth, IRENA said in its annual Renewable Capacity Statistics 2019.
As of the end of last year, global renewable generation capacity amounted to 2,351 GW, with hydropower representing the largest share with installed capacity of 1,172 GW, the statistics showed.
Generation capacity of renewable energy grew at the same pace in 2018 as in 2017—at 7.9%, with solar energy booking the largest growth, 24% or 94 GW of capacity increase, followed by wind energy with an increase of 49 GW, or 10% growth.
Over the past two decades, the share of renewables in the growth of global electricity generation capacity has increased from about 25% in 2001 to 63% in 2018. The share of renewables in total global generation capacity has also increased—from 22% back in 2001 to 33% in 2018, IRENA said.
The agency, however, noted that the world needs to employ renewable energies faster if it were to meet the Paris climate goals.
“Renewable energy deployment needs to grow even faster, however, to ensure that we can achieve the global climate objectives and Sustainable Development Goals,” IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin said, commenting on the statistics.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) also warned that the world cannot afford to hit the ‘pause button’ on renewable capacity growth.
Renewable power capacity growth flattened in 2018, growing at the same pace as in 2017, which “raises concerns about meeting long-term climate goals,” the IEA said in May 2019. According to the agency, the 2018 net capacity additions represented only 60% of the net additions needed each year to meet long-term climate goals.
“Thanks to rapidly declining costs, the competitiveness of renewables is no longer heavily tied to financial incentives,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director.
Costs have dropped so much in recent years that renewable power is already the cheapest source of electricity in many parts of the world, IRENA said in its Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2018 report on 29 May. According to the report, more than three-quarters of the onshore wind and four-fifths of the utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) project capacity to be commissioned in 2020 should provide lower-priced electricity than the cheapest new coal-fired, oil or natural gas option, without financial assistance.
“Cost reductions for solar and wind power technologies are set to continue to 2020 and beyond,” IRENA said, noting that falling costs will make renewable power “the competitive backbone of the global energy sector transformation.”
Going forward, renewable energy investment and installation are expected to continue to grow around the world.
According to energy research and business intelligence firm Rystad Energy, total capital expenditure (capex) in renewable projects in Asia excluding China will outpace investment in oil and gas exploration and production as soon as in 2020, thanks to higher renewable energy investment in Australia, Vietnam, Taiwan, and South Korea.
“These countries each have strong pipelines for renewable energy developments of all types, including offshore wind,” Gero Farruggio, Head of Renewables at Rystad Energy, said in May 2019, commenting on an analysis of investments.
“And, importantly, most have large targets outlining the inclusion of renewable power sources within their respective energy mixes, with corresponding support policies,” Farruggio noted.
In the UK, renewable energy sources play an increasingly important role in electricity generation and in government plans to boost renewable energy investment and encourage business growth in the respective supply chains and their exports.
In 2018, the UK electricity generation’s fuel mix continued to shift away from fossil fuels, thanks to rising renewable energy generation which accounted for 33.3% of electricity generation, according to data from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The rising share of renewables contributed to a higher share of low carbon generation, up by 2.7 percentage points to 52.8% in 2018, despite lower nuclear power generation due to maintenance.
According to the latest provisional monthly data published by BEIS on 30 May, the share of renewables of electricity generation in March 2019 was at a record high of 37.4%, while the share of wind power also hit a record high at 26.6% of electricity generation.
The UK government launched in March 2019 a joint government-industry Offshore Wind Sector Deal, whereby offshore wind is set to provide more than 30 percent of British electricity by 2030.
“This deal will mean for the first time in UK history there will be more electricity from renewables than fossil fuels, with 70% of British electricity predicted to be from low carbon sources by 2030 and over £40 billion of infrastructure investment in the UK,” the government said.
The deal is part of plans to make the UK a global leader in renewables and to support the supply chain, potentially boosting its exports fivefold to £2.6 billion by 2030.
“We have a fantastic supply chain already in place in the UK, from businesses in and around East Anglia to across England, across Scotland as well as Northern Ireland. The Sector Deal will attract even more businesses in the UK to join the offshore wind supply chain and we are excited to see the transformative impact this will have on our projects,” ScottishPower Chief Executive, Keith Anderson said, commenting on the Offshore Wind Sector Deal.