One Third of Global Power Now Comes from Renewables

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), a third of the power plant capacity in 2018 came from renewables, a major milestone worth celebrating.

IRENA measures the power generation capability of renewables by looking at the maximum net generating capacity of power plants that use renewables to produce electricity. In this way they are able to give a like-for-like comparison with non-renewable sources.

For 2018 the Agency found that hydropower was, perhaps unsurprisingly, the current leader in renewable energy generation with an installed capacity at 1,172 GW. Behind that were wind and solar energy at 564 GW and 480 GW.

This demonstrates that there is still a big gap between hydropower and solar and wind energy. However, wind and solar played no small part in 2018′s 7.9 percent growth. Together, they accounted for 84 percent of the new share. This indicates that, while wind and solar may be lagging behind, they are quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with.

IRENA’s “Capacity Statistics 2019” report paints an encouraging picture for the renewables market, despite world governments still sabotaging efforts to switch by, for example, cutting subsidies to renewables in favor of fossil fuels.

“Through its compelling business case, renewable energy has established itself as the technology of choice for new power generation capacity,” IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin said in a press release. “The strong growth in 2018 continues the remarkable trend of the last five years, which reflects an ongoing shift towards renewable power as the driver of global energy transformation. Renewable energy deployment needs to grow even faster, however, to ensure that we can achieve the global climate objectives and Sustainable Development Goals. Countries taking full advantage of their renewables potential will benefit from a host of socioeconomic benefits in addition to decarbonising their economies.”

Currently, emerging and developing economies are leading the way in renewable energy capacity growths. This may be a source of consternation for nations like the United States and the United Kingdom, but it does make some sense. Developing and emerging economies are less entrenched in fossil fuels. They can see the benefits of adopting a diverse energy profile that could allow them to transition fully to renewables when their infrastructure is ready.

Countries like China and India are betting on the booming economy of renewables as a key part of their future financial success with heavy investments over the past few years and more to come.

The 2018 data reflects this. Asia continent had the lion’s share of new renewable energy installations at some 61 percent. However, Oceania—which comprises nations such as Australia, New Zealand and Fiji—demonstrated a 17.7 percent rise in its renewable energy capacity, which was the fastest increase in 2018. Africa’s growth was not to be ignored either, with an 8.4 percent share.

To put this in perspective, the North American growth was at 5.4 percent, with Central America and the Caribbean leading the Americas at 5.5 percent capacity growth.

It is critical to note that while China, the Middle East and other developing economies are investing heavily in renewables, they are also investing in fossil fuels. Non-renewable energy generation capacity has increased by 725 GW in Asia and 100 GW in the Middle East since 2010. While Europe and North America’s figures for renewable capacity increase are slower, their fossil fuel use has fallen, significantly in some cases.

One other area to note is that, while hydropower continues to be a dominant force in renewable energy, it’s also a problematic environmental issue. Hydro is falling out of favor, and the data show that once again its use is slowing. Only China is adding new, significant hydropower generation facilities.

The report demonstrates that, while renewable energy is not yet the dominant energy source, its pace of growth has dramatically outperformed expectations from just ten years ago. Renewables are on track to become a majority force by 2050. If President Trump really does want energy dominance, he needs to rethink renewables, and quickly.

Photo credit: Getty Images.

55 comments

Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld5 days ago

Beryl L.,
I would love to.

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Renata K
Renata Kovacs5 days ago

Thank you for sharing,,

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Anne H
Anne H5 days ago

Fascinated by all the possibilities still out there

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Beryl L
Beryl Ludwig5 days ago

There you are again Dan B Mister know-it-all why don't you write the damn article you seem to know everything about anything incorrect every article that I've read so far with you making a comment

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Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld5 days ago

What the report failed to state is that the majority of renewable energy generation comes from hydroelectric. Wind has increased, but solar remains at less than 1%.

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Ruth G
Ruth G5 days ago

good news but we can do much better, its URGENT especially certain countries .We all need to pull our weight behind this dire problem! Any climate deniers need to be sacked. pressure from all the young people ,the future population by striking & demonstrating is invaluable to press home the need with politicians

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Lorraine A
Lorraine A5 days ago

Nice to see, thanks for sharing.

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Cathy B
Cathy B5 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Alice L
Alice L5 days ago

TYFS

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Julia R
Julia R6 days ago

Good news! But we need much more of renewable energy- almost a complete shift right now- if we want a future! And Trump who is one of the biggest impediments to progress needs to be removed from office asap! For every day that he is in office, he pushes us farther and farther back!

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