Global renewable energy generation capacity increased by 161 GW in 2016, making the strongest year ever for new capacity additions, according to data released on 30 March by the International Renewable Energy Agency. Its report, Renewable Energy Capacity Statistics 2017, estimates that by the end of last year the world’s renewable generation capacity reached 2006 GW, 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 RE capacity,” said IRENA director-general Adnan Z Amin. “But accelerating this momentum will require additional investment in order to move decisively towards decarbonising the energy sector and meeting climate objectives. This new data is an encouraging sign that though there is much yet to do, we are on the right path,” he added.
IRENA’s new data shows that last year’s additions increased the world’s renewable energy capacity by 8.7%, with a record 71 GW of new solar energy leading the growth. 2016 marked the first time since 2013 that solar growth outpaced wind energy, which increased by 51 GW, while hydropower and bioenergy capacities increased 30 GW and 9 GW respectively —the best ever year for growth in bioenergy capacity. Geothermal energy capacity increased by just under 1 GW.
Asia accounted for 58% of new additions in 2016, bringing it to a total of 812 GW or roughly 41% of the global capacity. Asia was also the fastest growing region, with a 13.1% increase in renewable capacity. Africa installed 4.1 GW of new capacity in 2016, twice as much as 2015.
This year’s edition of the Statistics contains for the first time data specifically for off-grid renewables. IRENA shows that off-grid RE electricity capacity reached 2800 MW at the end of 2016. Roughly 40% of off-grid electricity was provided 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 off-grid renewable electricity.