Record year for renewables in 2016

Global renewable energy generation capacity increased by 161GW in 2016, making the strongest year ever for new capacity additions, according to data released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

Renewable Energy Capacity Statistics 2017, estimates that by the end of last year the world’s renewable generation capacity reached 2006GW, with solar energy showing particularly strong growth.

“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.

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

“But accelerating this momentum will require additional investment in order to move decisively towards decarbonising the energy sector and meet climate objectives.

“This new data is an encouraging sign that though there is much yet to do, we are on the right path.”

IRENA’s new data shows that last year’s additions grew the world’s renewable energy capacity by 8.7 per cent, with a record 71GW of new solar energy leading the growth.

Last year marked the first time since 2013 that solar growth outpaced wind energy, which increased by 51GW, while hydropower and bioenergy capacities increased 30GW and 9GW respectively – the best ever year for growth in bioenergy capacity.

Geothermal energy capacity increased by just under 1GW.

Asia accounted for 58 per cent of new renewable additions in 2016, according to the data, giving it a total of 812GW or roughly 41 per cent of the global capacity.

Asia was also the fastest growing region, with a 13.1 per cent increase in renewable capacity.

Africa installed 4.1GW 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.

IRENA shows that off-grid renewable electricity capacity reached 2800MW 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.

It is estimated globally as many as 60 million households, or 300 million people, are served with and benefit from off-grid renewable electricity.