The renewable energy sector added 176 gigawatts (GW) of generating capacity globally last year, which accounted for 72 per cent of all power expansion in 2019, according to recent data published by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). While the 7.6 per cent expansion of renewables’ falls short of 2018 figures, it still outpaced fossil fuel growth. Solar and wind contributed 90 per cent of the total added renewable capacity.
Commenting IRENA’s annual Renewable Capacity Statistics 2020, Director-General Francesco La Camera underlined that renewable energy is a cost-effective source of a new power that insulates power markets and consumers from volatility, supports economic stability and stimulates sustainable growth. He welcomed that with renewable additions providing the majority of new capacity last year, apparently many countries and regions recognise the degree to which the energy transition can deliver positive outcomes.
By the end of 2019 global renewable generation capacity has grown to a total of 2,537 GW, which took the renewable share of all global power capacity to 34.7 per cent, up from 33.3 per cent at the end of 2018 following long-term trends. Globally, hydropower accounted for the largest share of the total, with a capacity of 1,190 GW (47 per cent), while solar and wind accounted for 23 and 25 per cent respectively.
Solar and wind energy dominated the renewable capacity expansion, jointly accounting for 90 per cent of all net renewable additions in 2019. Solar continued to lead the capacity expansion, with an increase of 98 GW, a growth of 20 per cent, followed by wind with 59 GW and a growth of 10 per cent compared to 2018.
In Central and Eastern Europe renewables grew by 11 per cent last year up to reach 80,850 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity, outpacing the average European growth rate of 6.5 per cent. Tendencies in the region’s renewables capacities are in line with global ones with solar and wind leading the growth.
In 2019, solar capacity expanded to 17,216 MW of installed capacity in Central and Eastern Europe, representing an increase of 48 per cent – more than double of the 20 per cent growth measured globally – compared to 2018.
On a country level, Ukraine is standing out in the region as additions took the country’s total solar power capacity to 5,936 MW, up from 2,003 MW at the end of 2018. Ukraine’s sharp increase in RES capacities comes as the government has committed to ramping up renewables from around 4 per cent of the country’s energy mix today, to 25 per cent by 2035. Much of this growth in solar and wind as well has been fuelled by a rush to secure the Green Tariff, which is to be replaced by an auction-based regime from this year.
The installed solar capacity was also on the rise in Poland where solar energy is the fastest growing renewable energy source, although it accounts for the smallest part of the energy mix. At the end of 2019, the capacity of photovoltaic installations in Poland stood at 1,300 MW representing a 157 per cent increase as of 2018. The trend is expected to continue as state-owned power company Polska Grupa Energetyczna (PGE) plans to invest in solar plants with a capacity of 2.5 GW by 2030.
The expansion of wind-generated energy is also impressive in the region. With more than 3.5 GW capacity, the wind sector soared to record highs in Greece in 2019, up by 25.4 per cent over that generated in 2018. In the Balkan region, Serbia managed to increase its installed wind capacities by putting into operation its largest wind farm (Čibuk 1) with a maximum capacity of 158 MW in 2019.
Poland is by far the leading country in the region in terms of installed onshore wind capacity. Currently, there are no offshore wind farms operating in Poland. However, five GW is planned to be underway by 2030. At present, 13 wind farm projects are under consideration with an ambition to generate 25 per cent of Poland’s energy by offshore wind by 2040.
IRENA’s report concluded that while the trajectory is positive, more is required to put the global energy on a path with sustainable development and climate mitigation, both of which offer significant economic benefits.
“At this challenging time, we are reminded of the importance of building resilience into our economies,” added Mr La Camera. “In what must be the decade of action, enabling policies are needed to increase investments and accelerate renewables adoption.”