Global Renewable Capacity Grows 8.7% in 2016

wind turbines and solar panels

The latest report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) shows that in 2016, global renewable capacity grew by 8.7%, or 161GW, with 58% of this growth taking place in Asia . This continues the global trend seen since 2009 of an 8-9% increase each year. Solar and wind energy took the greatest share, with increased capacity of 71 GW and 51 GW, respectively. Almost three-quarters of new wind energy capacity was installed in just four countries: China (+19 GW), USA (+9 GW), Germany (+5 GW), and India (+4 GW). Almost half of all new solar capacity was installed in China in 2016 (+34 GW). Other countries with significant expansion included USA (+11 GW), Japan (+8 GW), and India (+4 GW). European capacity increased to 104 GW (+5 GW), with most expansion in Germany and the UK. Interestingly, the IRENA report now includes statistics on off-grid renewable electricity, an important contribution to sustainable development. Capacity reached 2,800 MW at the end of 2016, which is estimated to provide electricity to around 300 million people.

BEIS (Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy) statistics released at the end of March, show that renewable capacity in the UK totalled 34.7 GW at the end of 2016 , an increase of 14% compared to a year earlier. Solar photovoltaics had the highest share of capacity, at 33% and grew by 2.4 GW during 2016, with most growth coming from sites accredited under the Renewables Obligation (RO). The RO is the key policy that enabled the development of renewables in the UK, with the result that close to 25% of electricity was generated from renewables last year. However, the RO officially closed to new generating capacity on 31st March this year and evidence shows that growth in capacity is now slowing in the UK. The industry is calling for clarity on policies going forward, particularly as scheduling of the Contract for Differences auctions can be unpredictable. James Court, Head of Policy and External Affairs at the Renewable Energy Association, said: “Renewables such as solar and onshore wind are already the cheapest form of electricity in many situations and are tantalisingly close to being able to be built with no direct subsidy, but in the meantime, they need support to get over that final hurdle”.

Nikki Wilson

Nikki joined Alfa Energy in September 2015 as a Carbon Management Consultant where she advises clients on legislation, compliance, and the implementation of carbon management schemes. She is a Practitioner member of IEMA, has a postgraduate diploma in Environmental Decision Making, and has over 15 years’ experience in energy consultancy.