By - Jim Vess

Global renewable energy generation additions stalled in 2018 for the first time in 17 years

Energize Weekly, May 15, 2019

The nearly two-decade, year-on-year growth in global renewable energy generating capacity stalled in 2018, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The 180 gigawatts (GW) of generating capacity—in wind, photovoltaic (PV) solar, hydro, bioenergy and other renewable sources—added in 2018 was about the same as in 2017.

It was the first time there wasn’t a yearly increase since 2001. The IEA calculates that the installation rate provides only 60 percent of the annual net additions needed to meet long-term climate goals.

“These 2018 data are deeply worrying, but smart and determined policies can get renewable capacity additions back on an upward trend,” Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, said in a statement.

While increases in wind and hydropower have slowed since 2015, the rapid growth in solar PV has taken up the slack. Growth in global solar PV projects in 2018, however, flattened with 97 GW installed, short of the 100 GW target.

A big reason was revised solar PV policies and incentives in China as the country took steps to deal with costs and integration concerns in the domestic market.

China added 44 GW in 2018, a 17 percent drop from 2017 levels. Still, the country accounted for 45 percent of all the solar capacity installations for the year.

At the same time, the U.S. market, which was hit with Trump administration tariff on solar cells and modules, was flat for the year.

The European Union, Mexico, the Middle East and Africa all posted increases in PV installations, which combined counterbalanced the slowdown in China.

But lower wind additions in the European Union and India also contributed to stalling renewable capacity growth in 2018, the IEA said.

In 2018, energy-related CO2 emissions rose by 1.7 percent to a historic high of 33 gigatons, the IEA said. Despite a growth of 7 percent in renewable electricity generation, emissions from the power sector grew to record levels.

“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,” Birol said. “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. Stop-and-go policies are particularly harmful to markets and jobs.”

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