Last year the world saw 161 gigawatts of new renewable energy installed, almost 9 percent more than was installed in 2015, raising the amount of renewable energy online across the world to 2,017 gigawatts. At the same time the the amount invested in the new renewable energy fell 23 percent to to $241.6 billion, according to Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21th Century’s (REN21’s) Renewables 2017 Global Status Report (GSR), which published on Thursday.
“The world is adding more renewable power capacity each year than it adds in new capacity from all fossil fuels combined,” said Arthouros Zervos, chair of REN21. “One of the most important findings of this year’s GSR, is that holistic, systemic approaches are key and should become the rule rather than the exception.
The majority of renewable energy that came online in 2016 came from solar photovoltaics, which accounted for around 47 percent of the new capacity as at least 75 gigawatts of solar came online last year, beating the 51 gigawatts that came online in 2015. Wind power was second at 34 percent and hydropower third at 15.5 percent of the new electric generation.
The organization stated that renewables are becoming the least-cost option. It pointed out deals in Denmark, Egypt, India, Mexico, Peru and the United Arab Emirates where renewable energy was being delivered 5 cents per kilowatt hour or less. “This is well below equivalent costs for fossil fuel and nuclear generating capacity in each of these countries. Winners of two recent auctions for offshore wind in Germany have done so relying only on the wholesale price of power without the need for government support, demonstrating that renewables can be the least cost option,” it stated.
The report also noted that more investments in infrastructure are needed, as are tools to help manage that growth. Thankfully electric grids are becoming more flexible as new technologies are coming online, adding more flexibility to such systems. For instance, about 800 megawatts advanced energy storage capacity became operational in 2016, bringing the year-end total to an estimated 6.4 gigawatts of online energy storage. Meanwhile mini-grids and stand-alone systems growing as are Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) business models.
Still, the positive report had cautiously positive tone. “The world is in a race against time. The single most important thing we could do to reduce CO2 emissions quickly and cost-effectively, is phase-out coal and speed up investments in energy efficiency and renewables,” said Christine Lins, REN21’s executive secretary. “When China announced in January that it was cancelling more than 100 coal plants currently in development, they set an example for governments everywhere: change happens quickly when governments act—by establishing clear, long-term policy and financial signals and incentives.”Tweet