IRENA: Solar and Bioenergy See Record Growth in 2016

Global renewable energy generation capacity surged 161 GW in 2016, marking its strongest year ever for new capacity additions, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) said in a new report released at the end of March.

IRENA’s “Renewable Energy Capacity Statistics 2017” suggests that the surge was spearheaded by countries in Asia, which accounted for 58% of new renewable additions in 2016. Asian countries now host 41% or 812 GW of total installed global renewable capacity. The report also notes that Africa’s renewable installations doubled during 2016 compared to 2015, growing 4.1 GW.

The report also shows that solar led renewable capacity growth, increasing by a record 71 GW in 2016, outpacing wind energy, which spurted by 51 GW. Almost half of the new solar capacity was installed in China (34 GW). The U.S. added 11 GW, Japan increased its capacity by 8 GW, and India by 4 GW. Europe also boosted its capacity by 5 GW, mostly all in Germany and the UK.

Wind capacity increases of 51 GW were led by China (19 GW), the U.S. (9 GW), Germany (5 GW), and India (4 GW). According to a separate report released by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) on April 27 (which suggests wind capacity grew by 54 GW) wind power penetration has also recently surged. Denmark, GWEC said, is pushing 40%, followed by Uruguay, Portugal, and Ireland, which all have wind penetration levels exceeding 20%, and then Spain and Cyprus at 20%. GWEC forecasts that more than 60 GW of new wind installations will be added in 2017 and world cumulative capacity could top 800 GW by 2021—a nearly 70% increase compared to the 486.8 GW installed worldwide at the end of 2016 (Figure 4).

Figure 4_WindmarketForecast_GWEC
4. A gust for wind. The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) forecasts that wind capacity worldwide is set to grow exponentially over the next five years despite competition with solar, fueled by more interest from corporate buyers and a decline in offshore wind prices. Courtesy: GWEC, Global Wind 2016 Report

IRENA said that hydro capacity increased by 30 GW, driven by Brazil and China, though it also noted substantial capacity increases in Canada, Ecuador, Ethiopia, and India. Meanwhile, bioenergy increased by 9 GW—also marking its best year ever for growth—led by Asian countries. Geothermal capacity also saw growth of just under 1 GW. Last year, Kenya added 485 MW, Turkey 150 MW, Indonesia 95 MW, and Italy 55 MW.

Sonal Patel is a POWER associate editor