Renewable capacity growth worldwide stalls in 2018

By Firdevs Yuksel

ANKARA (AA) – Global renewable capacity growth stalled in 2018 after nearly two decades of strong annual growth, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) on Monday.

Renewables around the world added as much net capacity in 2018 as they did in 2017, however, capacity growth in 2018 failed to increase year on year for the first time since 2001.

New net capacity from solar PV, wind, hydro, bioenergy, and other renewable power sources increased by about 180 gigawatts (GW) in 2018, equivalent to the previous year.

According to the IEA, this unexpected break in the trend raised concerns over the possibility of reaching long-term climate goals as renewables have a major role to play in curbing global emissions, around 60% of the net additions needed each year to meet long-term climate goals.

Renewable capacity additions need to grow by over 300 GW on average each year between 2018 and 2030 to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement, according to the agency's Sustainable Development Scenario.

However, despite a growth of 7% in renewables electricity generation, emissions from the power sector grew to record levels. In 2018, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions rose by 1.7% to a historic high of 33 gigatonnes.

"The world cannot afford to press 'pause' on the expansion of renewables and governments need to act quickly to correct this situation and enable a faster flow of new projects," said the IEA's Executive Director, Dr Fatih Birol.

"Thanks to rapidly declining costs, the competitiveness of renewables is no longer heavily tied to financial incentives. What they mainly need are stable policies supported by a long-term vision but also a focus on integrating renewables into power systems in a cost-effective and optimal way," Birol added.

Since 2015, global solar PV's exponential growth had been compensating for slower increases in wind and hydropower, according to the agency.

But solar PV's growth flattened in 2018, adding 97 GW of capacity and falling short of expectations that it would surpass the symbolic 100 GW mark.

The main reason was a sudden change in China's solar PV incentives to curb costs and address grid integration challenges to achieve more sustainable PV expansion. Moreover, lower wind additions in the EU and India also contributed to stalling renewable capacity growth in 2018.

China added 44 GW of solar PV in 2018, compared with 53 GW in 2017. With new transmission lines and higher electricity demand, China’s wind additions picked up last year, but hydropower expansion continued to slow, maintaining a trend observed since 2013.

Capacity additions in the EU, the second-largest market for renewables, saw a slight decline. Solar PV grew compared with the previous year, while wind additions slowed down.

In the U.S., the third-largest market, renewable capacity additions increased slightly in 2018, mainly driven by faster onshore wind expansion while solar PV growth was flat.