GSR 2018 Renewables Report

178 GW of renewable power added in 2017; electricity leads way

Renewable power accounted for 70% of net additions to global power generating capacity in 2017, the largest increase in renewable power capacity in modern history, according to REN21’s Renewables 2018 Global Status Report (GSR). But the heating, cooling and transport sectors–which together account for about four-fifths of global
final energy demand–continue to lag far behind the power sector.
The GSR, published today, is considered the most comprehensive annual overview of the state of renewable energy worldwide. Here are the highlights, as provided and culled from the official GSR 2018 press release sent to Electrical Apparatus via e-mail on June 4.
New solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity reached record levels: Solar PV additions were up 29% relative to 2016, to 98 GW. More solar PV generating capacity was added to the electricity system than net capacity additions of coal,
natural gas and nuclear power combined. Wind power also drove the uptake of renewables with 52 GW added globally.
Investment in new renewable power capacity was more than twice that of net, new fossil fuel and nuclear power capacity combined. This could be looked at as an encouraging benchmark for the renewable energy sector, because it occurred despite large, ongoing subsidies for fossil fuel generation. More than two-thirds of investments in power generation were in renewables in 2017, thanks to their increasing cost-competitiveness–and the share of renewables in the power sector is expected to only continue to rise.
Investment in renewables was regionally concentrated. China, Europe and the United States accounted for nearly 75% of global investment in renewables in 2017. However, when measured per unit of gross domestic product (GDP), the Marshall Islands, Rwanda, the Solomon Islands, Guinea-Bissau, and many other developing countries are investing as much as or more in renewables than developed and emerging economies.
Sign of the times? Or of new administrations and stringent government actions regarding energy? Both energy demand and energy-related CO2 emissions rose substantially for the first time in four years. Energy-related CO2 emissions rose by 1.4%. Global energy demand increased an estimated 2.1% in 2017 due to economic growth in emerging economies as well as population growth. Renewable energy uptake is not keeping pace with this increasing energy demand and the continuous investment in fossil and nuclear capacity.
In the power sector, the transition to renewables is under way but is progressing more slowly than green advocates would consider desirable. A commitment made under the 2015 Paris climate agreement to limit global temperature rise to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels makes the nature of the challenge much clearer.
If the world is to achieve the target set in the Paris agreement, then heating, cooling and transport will need to follow the same path as the power sector–and fast. These sectors have seen:
Little change in renewables uptake in heating and cooling. Modern renewable energy supplied approximately 10% of total global heat production in 2015. National targets for renewable energy in heating and cooling exist in only 48 countries around the world, whereas 146 countries have targets for renewable energy in the power sector.
Small changes are under way. In India, for example, installations of solar thermal collectors rose approximately 25% in 2017 as compared to 2016. China aims to have 2% of the cooling loads of its buildings come from solar thermal energy by 2020.
In transport, meanwhile, increasing electrification is offering possibilities for renewable energy uptake despite the dominance of fossil fuels. More than 30 million two-and three-wheeled electric vehicles are
being added to the world’s roads every year, and 1.2 million passenger electric cars were sold in 2017, up about 58%
from 2016. Electricity provides 1.3% of transport energy needs, of which about one-quarter is renewable, and biofuels provide 2.9%. Overall, however, 92% of transport energy demand continues to be met by oil, and only 42 countries have national targets for the use of renewable energy in transport. For these sectors to change, the right policy frameworks need to be put in place, driving innovation and the development of new renewable energy technologies in the sectors that are lagging.
“Equating ‘electricity’ with ‘energy’ is leading to complacency,” said Rana Adib, Executive Secretary of REN21. “We may be racing down the pathway towards a 100% renewable electricity future, but when it comes to heating, cooling and transport, we are coasting along as if we had all the time in the world. Sadly, we don’t.”
REN21’s Renewables 2018 Global Status Report presents developments and trends through the end of 2017, as well as observed trends from early 2018 where available. First published in 2005, the annual Renewables Global Status Report is, by design, not intended to provide analysis or forecast. Data is provided by a network of 900 contributors, researchers, and authors from all over the world.

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