Renewables grow and China leads the way

Reproduced from "Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2018", UNEP and Bloomberg New Energy Finance; Chart: Axios Visuals

A new report, published by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and partners, underscores how additions of new renewable power capacity — especially solar — greatly outpaced other sources in 2017. Additions of solar generating capacity alone, led by China which accounted for more than half the increase, outstripped net new fossil fuel capacity, according to the report.

The bottom line: The report underscores both the progress toward a lower-carbon global power mix and the immense challenge of corralling carbon emissions, which grew last year after a 3-year plateau. Nils Stieglitz, president of Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, wrote in an accompanying statement: “This shows where we are heading, although the fact that renewables altogether are still far from providing the majority of electricity means that we still have a long way to go."

By the numbers:

  • 157 gigawatts of renewable power capacity were added worldwide last year, with solar accounting for 98 of them.
  • That outpaces the 70 gigawatts of fossil fuel generation capacity added.
  • Renewables are growing fast but from a small base (see chart above). Non-hydro renewables accounted for 61% of new capacity additions last year, but renewables were 12% of global generation.
  • Global investment in renewables rose 2% in 2017 to $279.8 billion.
  • China alone accounted for 45% of that investment and added 53 gigawatts of solar capacity.