- May 1, 2019: Vol. 6, Number 5

The green wave: Two-thirds of new energy installed in 2018 was renewable

by Mike Consol

The decade-long trend of strong growth in renewable energy capacity continued in 2018 with global additions of 171 gigawatts, according to new data released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The annual increase of 7.9 percent was bolstered by new additions from solar and wind energy, which accounted for 84 percent of the growth. One-third of global power capacity is now based on renewable energy.

The numbers are reported in IRENA’s annual Renewable Capacity Statistics 2019, which tracks renewable energy growth and capacity around the world. While Asia accounted for 61 percent of total new renewable energy installations and grew installed renewables capacity by 11.4 percent, growth was fastest in Oceania (a region covering Micronesia, Fiji and all of Polynesia except New Zealand), which witnessed a 17.7 percent rise in 2018. Africa’s 8.4 percent growth put it in third place just behind Asia. Nearly two-thirds of all new power generation capacity added in 2018 was from renewables, led by emerging and developing economies.

IRENA’s analysis also compared the growth in generation capacity of renewables versus non-
renewable energy, mainly fossil fuels and nuclear. While non-renewable generation capacity has decreased in Europe, North America and Oceania by about 85 gigawatts since 2010, it has increased in both Asia and the Middle East over the same period. Since 2000, non-renewable generation capacity has expanded by about 115 gigawatts per year on average, with no discernible trend upwards or downwards.

The renewables lineup broke down as follows:

  • Hydropower: Growth in hydro continued to slow in 2018, with only China adding a significant amount of new capacity in 2018.
  • Wind: Global wind energy capacity increased by 49 gigawatts in 2018, with China and the United States accounting for the greatest share of expansion.
  • Bioenergy: Three countries accounted for more than half of the relatively low level of bioenergy capacity expansion in 2018 — China, India and the United Kingdom.
  • Solar: Solar energy capacity increased by 94 gigawatts during 2018, a 24 percent increase. Asia continued to dominate global growth with a 64 gigawatt increase, or about 70 percent of the 2018 global expansion.
  • Geothermal: Geothermal energy increased by 539 megawatts in 2018, with most of the expansion taking place in Turkey and Indonesia, followed by the United States, Mexico and New Zealand.

Globally, total renewable energy generation capacity reached 2,351 gigawatts at the end of 2018, around one-third of total installed electricity capacity. Hydropower accounts for the largest share with an installed capacity of 1,172 gigawatts, around half of the total.


Mike Consol ( is editor of Real Assets Adviser. Follow him on Twitter @mikeconsol to read his latest postings.

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