Last year was the first time since 2001 that growth in renewable power capacity failed to increase year on year.
Statistics from International Energy Agency (IEA) reveal that new net capacity from solar PV, wind, hydropower, bioenergy and other renewable sources increased by about 180 GW in 2018 – the same as 2017.
And the IEA warns that the 180 GW figure is “only around 60 per cent of the net additions needed each year to meet long-term climate goals”.
IEA Executive Director Dr Fatih Birol said the figures were “deeply worrying, but smart and determined policies can get renewable capacity back on an upward trend”.
He stressed that “the world cannot afford to press ‘pause’ on the expansion of renewables, and governments need to act quickly to correct this situation and enable a faster flow of new projects.”
The IEA calculates that renewable capacity additions need to grow by over 300 GW on average each year between now and 2030 to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement.
And the IEA also highlights that its analysis shows that “the world is not doing enough. Last year, energy-related CO2 emissions rose by 1.7 per cent to a historic high of 33 gigatonnes. Despite a growth of 7 per cent in renewables electricity generation, emissions from the power sector grew to record levels.”
Dr Birol said: “Thanks to rapidly declining costs, the competitiveness of renewables is no longer heavily tied to financial incentives. What they mainly need are stable policies supported by a long-term vision but also a focus on integrating renewables into power systems in a cost-effective and optimal way. Stop-and-go policies are particularly harmful to markets and jobs.”
He added that the IEA was helping countries around the world “in their energy transitions with targeted policy advice aimed at accelerating investment in a global portfolio of renewable energy technologies, as well as energy efficiency, carbon capture, utilisation and storage, and all other clean-energy technologies”.
The IEA says that since 2015, solar PV’s global growth had been compensating for slower increases in wind and hydropower. But solar PV’s growth flattened in 2018, adding 97 GW of capacity and falling short of expectations it would surpass the symbolic 100 GW mark. The IEA says the main reason for this was a sudden change in China’s solar PV incentives to curb costs and address grid integration challenges to achieve more sustainable PV expansion.
China added 44 GW of solar PV in 2018, compared with 53 GW in 2017. Growth was stable in the US, but solar PV additions increased in the European Union, Mexico, the Middle East and Africa, which together compensated for the slowdown in China.
Despite slower solar PV growth, China accounted for almost 45 per cent of the total capacity increase in renewable electricity last year. With new transmission lines and higher electricity demand, China’s wind additions picked up last year, but hydropower expansion continued to slow, maintaining a trend observed since 2013.
Capacity additions in the European Union, the second-largest market for renewables, saw a slight decline. Solar PV grew compared with the previous year, while wind additions slowed down. Policy transition challenges and changing renewable incentives resulted in slower growth of onshore wind in India and of solar PV in Japan.