In a new report entitled "Renewable Capacity Statistics 2020", provided courtesy of The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), there was a significant expansion in renewable power over fossil fuels, with renewables accounting for 72 per cent of all power expansion.
Renewable energy expanded by 7.6 per cent in 2019, adding 176 gigawatts (GW) of generating capacity globally, marginally lower than the (revised) 179 GW added in 2018.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) advocated the idea that the way COVID-19 crisis is changing the way we live and work - can pivot economies towards “building back better”, with a greater focus on clean energy, green jobs and sustainable development.
Although non-renewable capacity (oil, coal and gas) expansion in 2019 continued to follow long-term trends, with net growth in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, regions like Europe and North America followed a net decommissioning trend.
“Renewable energy is the fastest growing source of electricity supply, but it’s important to bear in mind that electricity accounts for only about 20 per cent of energy used—the rest is mainly fossil fuels: coal, oil and gas,” says UNEP energy expert Mark Radka.
“Renewable energy is still challenging in many end-use sectors such as aviation, shipping, industry and heavy transport,” he adds.
Solar and wind dominated the renewable capacity expansion, jointly accounting for 90 per cent of all net renewable additions in 2019 while hydropower accounted for the largest share of the global total, with a capacity of 1,190 GW.
Off-grid capacity grew by 160 MW (up 2 per cent) to reach 8.6 GW in 2019. Bioenergy accounts for 40 per cent of off-grid capacity.
Other renewables included 124 GW of bioenergy, 14 GW of geothermal, and 0.5 GW of marine energy.
The report showed 54 per cent of new capacity in 2019 - 44 per cent of the global total accounted to Asia, capacity in Europe and North America expanded by 6.6 and 6 per cent respectively.
While Oceania and the Middle East were the fastest growing regions (up 18.4 and 12.6 per cent respectively), although their share of global capacity is small, Africa only increased by 2.0 GW (up 4.3 per cent) to reach 48 GW.
“In some ways the COVID-19 crisis is the perfect opportunity for us to pause and to ramp up a just transition to carbon neutral economies, with all the benefits that we will have in terms of health (cleaner air) and mitigating costly climate change impacts,” said Niklas Hagelberg, UNEP climate change expert.