Renewable energy delivered more than two-thirds of the 265 gigawatts of new electricity generation capacity installed around the world last year, with solar alone accounting for 45% of the total, according to the Power Transition Trends 2020 report issued this week by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).
The new installations made 2019 the first year in which solar and wind supplied the majority of new capacity, in what Bloomberg Green calls a “seismic shift in how nations get their energy.” As recently as 2010, the two technologies accounted for less than 25% of new generation.
“That is a big deal,” said BNEF analyst Luiza Demôro. “It shows that we are going in a good direction. It’s good for the climate.”
Recharge notes that solar photovoltaics “added 118 GW of new plant in 2019 on its way to reaching 651 GW of capacity, outpacing wind’s total 644 GW, to become the fourth-largest power source on the planet, behind coal’s 2.1 TW, gas’ 1.8 TW, and hydro’s 1.2 TW.”
Demôro said PVs are “now truly ubiquitous and a worldwide phenomenon”. She added that “sharp declines in solar equipment costs, namely the modules that go on rooftops and in fields, have made this technology widely available for homes, businesses, and grids.”
The new capacity brought all renewables including hydropower up to 27% of total global capacity, from 20% in 2010, BNEF reported.
But while new gas-fired power plants hit a 10-year low last year, and 81 countries installed at least one megawatt of new solar, the world also added 39 gigawatts of new coal capacity in 2019, more than double the 2018 total of 19 GW.
With coal still accounting for 29% of installed generation capacity and 35% of power production, “this is a good start, but it’s not enough in the long run,” Demôro told Bloomberg Green. “There is a lot of work to be done to replace that capacity.”