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Renewable energy capacity stalls worldwide after nearly two decades of annual growth

The world added as much renewable energy net capacity in 2018 as it did in 2017. While that ties a record high, it’s also the first time in nearly two decades that additions didn’t see an increase from the prior year.

The new report comes from the International Energy Agency, which calls the added net capacity “an unexpected flattening of growth trends that raises concerns about meeting long-term climate goals.”

The IEA says the world added 177 gigawatts of renewable energy net capacity in 2018, the same as in 2017. Solar, wind, hydro, bioenergy, and other renewable sources are counted in that net capacity. This is only enough to meet 60% of the annual net additions necessary to meet long-term climate goals.

A major culprit for the static numbers was leveling solar growth. Solar had been making up for smaller increases in wind and hydropower.

A change in China’s solar PV incentives was the main reason for the slowdown, the IEA claims. Nevertheless, China still made up nearly 45% of the total capacity increase in renewable electricity last year.

The EU saw a slight overall decline in renewable additions, while the US experienced a slight increase in growth. Other countries saw accelerated growth, which made up for the remaining deficit to equal 2017’s numbers. IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said,

“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. 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.”

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) previously reported the world added 171 GW of renewable net capacity in 2018, which pushed renewable capacity to make up a third of the world’s total power capacity.

Another recent study found that 100% renewable energy is possible across all sectors by 2050, with solar handling the bulk of the energy supply. But it’s going to require a much quicker pace than this.

These IEA findings are a bit more in line with a March report from the World Economic Forum, which cited stagnation in the global transition to a more affordable, sustainable energy system.

Electrek’s Take

A close look at the numbers reveals just how much of an effect China has on the global energy mix, if you weren’t already aware. But this is no reason to say, “Well, it’s all dependent on China, so what can we do?” Because the answer is, plenty.

If anything, this report and others like it should convince you that much more must be done to ensure rapid deployment of renewable energy. Every country matters, and will matter more going forward. We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a much longer way to go.

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Phil Dzikiy is an Editor/Writer with Electrek/9to5Mac. Tips: