Renewable energy leaps in contributions

9th September 2018
Caroline Hayes


Renewable power accounted for 70% of net additions to global power generating capacity in 2017, according to REN21’s Renewables 2018 Global Status Report (GSR).  This is the largest increase in renewable power capacity in modern history, says the report’s authors. 

The annual overview of the state of renewable energy worldwide reported new solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity reached record levels, with solar PV additions up 29% relative to 2016, to 98GW. More solar PV generating capacity was added to the electricity system than net capacity additions of coal, natural gas and nuclear power combined. Wind power also drove the uptake of renewables with 52GW added globally.

Investment in new renewable power capacity was more than twice that of net, new fossil fuel and nuclear power capacity combined. More than two-thirds of investments in power generation were in renewables in 2017 as they became cost-competitive.

Global energy demand increased an estimated 2.1% in 2017 due to economic growth in emerging economies as well as population growth, but renewable energy is not keeping pace with demand. The power sector is slowly transitioning to renewables, says the report, and will need to accelerate, together with efforts from heating, cooling and transport sectors, to achieve the target set in the Paris agreement.

There has been little change in renewables uptake in heating and cooling, continues the report. Modern renewable energy supplied approximately 10% of total global heat production in 2015. National targets for renewable energy in heating and cooling exist in only 48 countries, whereas 146 countries have targets for renewable energy in the power sector.

In transport, increasing electrification has led to more than 30 million two- and three-wheeled electric vehicles being added to the world’s roads every year. There were 1.2 million passenger electric cars sold in 2017, up about 58% from 2016. Electricity provides 1.3% of transport energy needs, of which about one-quarter is renewable, and biofuels provide 2.9%. Overall 92% of transport energy demand continues to be met by oil, and only 42 countries have national targets for the use of renewable energy in transport.

“Equating ‘electricity’ with ‘energy’ is leading to complacency,” said Rana Adib, executive secretary of REN21. “We may be racing down the pathway towards a 100% renewable electricity future, but when it comes to heating, cooling and transport, we are coasting along as if we had all the time in the world. Sadly, we don’t.” 

Arthouros Zervos, REN21 Chair, added: “To make the energy transition happen there needs to be political leadership by governments – for example by ending subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear, investing in the necessary infrastructure, and establishing hard targets and policy for heating, cooling and transport. Without this leadership, it will be difficult for the world to meet climate or sustainable development commitments.”

In related news, GlobalData announced that Spain’s total installed power capacity increased from 55.5GW in 2000 to 104.4GW in 2017 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.8% between 2000 and 2017 (Figure 1).

The data and analytics company expects growth is expected to continue, though at a lower CAGR of 1.8%, between 2018 and 2030, reaching 131.1GW in 2030.

The share of non-hydro renewables in Spain’s capacity mix was just under 5% in 2000, increasing to 30.3% in 2017.

Chiradeep Chatterjee, Power Analyst at GlobalData, says: “Spain’s new socialist government that came to power in June 2018 adopted a more aggressive posture regarding renewable energy and supported a move in the EU, of which it is a member, to increase the target for renewable energy sources from the present 27% to 35% by 2030. The EU finally increased its target to 32% by 2030, which is binding for all its members.

“As a result of this policy shift, our analysis shows that solar PV capacity in Spain will grow at a CAGR of 13.1%, while onshore wind capacity will grow at a CAGR of 3.3% between 2018 and 2030. Non-hydro renewable energy sources are expected to contribute to 48.6% of the total capacity mix in 2030.”

Chatterjee adds: “Much of the development of renewable energy in the country was due to its attractive feed-in tariff (FiT) program followed by the government until 2012. The phasing out of FiTs in 2012 hit the development of this sector. As a result, the share of non-hydro renewables in Spain’s capacity mix increased from 29% in 2013 to only 29.9% in 2016.”

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