2016 record year for renewables: IRENA

Global renewable energy generation capacity grew by 161 gigawatts (GW) in 2016, making it the strongest year ever for new capacity additions, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Solar energy showed particularly strong growth last year.

IRENA’s latest data shows that the world’s renewable energy capacity grew by 8.7 per cent last year. New solar energy led the growth with a record 71 GW, making 2016 the first time since 2013 that solar growth outpaced wind energy, which increased by 51 GW.

Almost half of all new solar capacity installed in 2016 was in China, adding 34 GW. The US came next with 11 GW added last year, followed by Japan (+8 GW) and India (+4 GW). Capacity in Europe expanded by 5 GW, with the most expansion occurring in Germany and the UK.

Close to three-quarters of new wind energy capacity was installed last year in just four countries, writes IRENA in a statement: China was the clear leader, adding 19 GW, followed by the US (+9 GW), Germany (+5 GW) and India (+4 GW).

Hydropower capacity increased by 30 GW, with about half of new hydro capacity installed in Brazil and China. Bioenergy capacities increased by 9 GW, the best ever year for growth in bioenergy capacity. The majority of that expansion occurred in Asia last year, and that region is fast approaching Europe in terms of its share of global bioenergy capacity.

Geothermal energy capacity increased by just under 1 GW, with notable expansions in expansions in Kenya, Turkey, Indonesia and Italy.

“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,” IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin said in a statement.

“This growth in deployment emphasises the increasingly strong business case for renewables which also have multiple socio-economic benefits in terms of fuelling economic growth, creating jobs and improving human welfare and the environment.”

Asia accounted for 58 per cent of new renewable additions in 2016, giving it a total of 812 GW or roughly 41 per cent of the global capacity. It was also the fastest growing region, with a 13.1 per cent increase in renewable capacity. Africa installed 4.1 GW of new capacity in 2016, twice as much as 2015.

This year’s edition of Renewable Energy Capacity Statistics contains for the first time data specifically for off-grid renewables, with capacity here reaching 2,800 megawatts (MW) at the end of 2016. Roughly 40 per cent of off-grid electricity was provided by solar energy and 10 per cent from hydropower. The majority of the remainder came from bioenergy. According to IRENA estimates, as many as 60 million households, or 300 million people, worldwide are served by off-grid renewable electricity.

Image credit: James Moran, flickr/Creative Commons

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