IRENA: 2016 was strongest year yet for renewables

Global renewable energy generation capacity increased by 161GW in 2016, making it the strongest year on record for new capacity additions

Solar has outpaced wind energy for new power capacity.
Solar has outpaced wind energy for new power capacity.

Global renewable energy generation capacity increased by 161GW in 2016, making it the strongest year on record for new capacity additions.

According to data released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in its Renewable Energy Capacity Statistics 2017 report, the world’s renewable generation capacity reached an estimated 2,006GW by the end of last year, with solar energy showing significant growth.

Adnan Z Amin, director-general of IRENA, commented: “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.

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

He added: “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 report shows that last year’s additions increased the world’s renewable energy capacity by 8.7%, with a record 71GW of new solar energy leading the growth.

The agency further noted that 2016 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, meanwhile, increased by just under 1GW.

Asia reportedly accounted for 58% of new renewable additions in 2016, giving it a total of 812GW or roughly 41% of the global capacity. Asia recorded the fastest growth among the regions, with a 13.1% increase in renewable capacity.

Africa installed 4.1GW of new capacity in 2016, twice as much as it did in 2015.

IRENA pointed out that this year’s edition of Renewable Energy Capacity Statistics is the first to include data specifically for off-grid renewables.

According to the report, off-grid renewable electricity capacity reached 2,800MW at the end of 2016. Roughly 40% of off-grid electricity was powered by solar energy and 10% by hydropower. The majority of the remainder came from bioenergy.

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

Renewable Energy Capacity Statistics 2017 includes figures from 2000 to 2016, and contains data from more than 200 countries and territories.

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