Global renewable energy capacity saw its largest annual increase ever, reaching 10 gigawatts (GW) of new generation installed worldwide.
The Renewables Global Status Report from renewable energy coalition REN21 states that in 2016, renewable energy provided nearly 20 percent of the world’s final power consumption.
Most of the new growth came from developing countries, with China remaining the single largest developer of renewable power and heat since 2011.
Global additions of renewable power capacity outpaced all (net) fossil fuel capacity combined, accounting for around 62 percent of net additions to global power generating capacity in 2016.
The report’s highlights include:
Newly installed renewable power capacity set new records in 2016, with 161 gigawatts (GW) added, increasing the global total by almost 9% relative to 2015. Solar PV was the star performer in 2016, accounting for around 47% of the total additions, followed by wind power at 34% and hydropower at 15.5%. For the fifth consecutive year, investment in new renewable power capacity (including all hydropower) was roughly double the investment in fossil fuel generating capacity, reaching USD 249.8 billion. The world now adds more renewable power capacity annually than it adds in net new capacity from all fossil fuels combined.
Cost for electricity from solar PV and wind is rapidly falling. Record-breaking tenders for solar PV occurred in Argentina, Chile, India, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with bids in some markets below USD 0.03 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Parallel developments in the wind power sector saw record low bids in several countries, including Chile, India, Mexico and Morocco. Record lows in offshore wind power tenders in Denmark and the Netherlands brought Europe’s industry closer to its goal to produce offshore wind power more cheaply than coal by 2025.
2016 was the third year in a row where global energy-related CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and industry remained stable despite a 3% growth in the global economy and an increased demand for energy. This can be attributed primarily to the decline in coal consumption, but also to the growth in renewable energy capacity and to improvements in energy efficiency. The decoupling of economic growth and CO2 emissions is an important first step towards achieving the steep decline in emissions necessary for holding global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius (°C).
The myth that fossil and nuclear power are needed to provide “baseload” electricity supply when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing has been shown to be false. In 2016, Denmark and Germany successfully managed peaks of 140% and 86.3%, respectively, of electricity generation from renewable sources, and in several countries (Portugal, Ireland and Cyprus, for example), achieving annual shares of 20-30% electricity from variable renewables without additional storage is becoming feasible. The key lesson for integrating large shares of variable renewable generation is to ensure maximum flexibility in the power system.
There has been an upsurge in cities, states, countries and major corporations committing to 100% renewable energy targets because it makes economic and business sense, quite apart from climate, environment and public health benefits. In 2016, 34 additional businesses joined RE100, a global initiative of businesses committed to sourcing their operations with 100% renewable electricity. Throughout 2016, the number of cities across the globe committed to transitioning to 100% renewable energy – in total energy use or in the electricity sector – continued to grow, and some cities and communities already have succeeded in this goal (for example, in more than 100 communities in Japan). Under the Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, more than 7,200 communities with a combined population of 225 million people are committed to reducing emissions 40% by 2030, by increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy deployment. And it is not only corporations and sub-national actors that are looking to go 100% renewable. At the climate conference in Marrakesh, Morocco in November 2016, the leaders of 48 developing nations committed to work towards achieving 100% renewable energy supply in their respective nations.