IRENA: Solar again the star as renewables score 72% of global additions in 2019

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Solar dominated again the annual green energy addition charts of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) last year, with Asian and European countries among the growth hotspots. Image: Jolywood

Solar dominated again the annual green energy addition charts of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) last year, with Asian and European countries among the growth hotspots.

Figures released by the global body this week suggest 176GW was installed across all renewable technologies worldwide in 2019. The figure, a slight drop on the 179GW recorded in 2018, means nonetheless that 72% of all global energy additions last year were renewable, IRENA said.

In a repeat of 2018's pattern, solar was found by IRENA to have been 2019’s leading technology, at 98GW of new installs where wind rolled out 60GW. According to the agency, the year-on-year jump pushed cumulative solar capacity to 586GW, with wind hitting 623GW.

IRENA’s talk of 98GW solar installs in 2019 contrasts with figures offered by individual consultancies, including BloombergNEF’s 118GW (including an 8GW buffer) and IHS Markit’s ~120GW. An analyst approached by PV Tech today partly linked the gap to AC-DC reporting discrepancies.

The global body claims to have reached its installed capacity estimates by pulling data from sources including its own questionnaires, official stats, industry association reports, national statistical offices, government departments, regulators and others.

“With renewable additions providing the majority of new capacity last year, it is clear that many countries and regions recognise the degree to which the energy transition can deliver positive outcomes,” said IRENA's director-general Francesco La Camera in a statement. 

Asia leads charge as solar faces COVID-19 standstill

As had been the case in 2018, Asia reaped the lion’s share of IRENA’s solar addition figures for 2019. The global body believes 60% of solar installs worldwide was commissioned in the continent, which went from hosting a cumulative 274GW of PV to 330GW year-on-year.

For its part, the US was said by IRENA to have taken installed PV capacity from 51GW in 2018 to 60GW in 2019, mirrored by year-on-year jumps in Europe minus Turkey (119GW to 138GW), Africa (5.2GW to 6.3GW) and South America (5.2GW to 6.4GW).

On a country-per-country basis, IRENA’s solar highlights also included Australia, thought by the agency to have pushed cumulative PV systems from 11.3GW in 2018 to 15.9GW in 2019. Within Asia, the highest solar growth rates concentrated around China, India, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam.

IRENA’s top solar mentions extended to Europe, from the continent’s largest PV market – Germany, said to have pushed installed PV from 45GW to 48.9GW – to Spain and Ukraine, with the former nearly doubling to 8.7GW and the latter surging from 2GW to 5.9GW.

Director-general La Camera said the 2019 figures show a “positive” trajectory but added that climate mitigation will require more efforts on the renewable front. “At this challenging time, we are reminded of the importance of building resilience into our economies”, he added.

The calls for faster green energy growth find the world fighting against the COVID-19 crisis, which is bringing some solar projects to a halt as lockdown plans are put in place. In mid-March, La Camera said he believed the pandemic would not “interrupt nor change” the shift to a low-carbon economy.

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