Global renewable energy electricity capacity increased by more than 8% in 2013, achieving a new record level, according to a United Nations-supported report released on June 3. Renewable energy sources met about one-fifth of world energy consumption, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) “Renewables 2014 Global Status Report.”
The 2014 report credits support policies with a central role in driving global renewable energy capacity to a new record level last year of more than 1,560 gigawatts (GW). Among the 2013 highlights:
- Renewables accounted for more than 56% of net additions to global power capacity
- For the first time, more solar photovoltaic generating capacity was added than wind power capacity worldwide
- Hydropower capacity rose by 4% to approximately 1,000 GW in 2013, accounting for about one-third of renewable power capacity added during the year.
- Renewable energy provided 19% of global final energy consumption in 2012, and continued to grow in 2013. Of this total share in 2012, modern renewables accounted for 10% with the remaining 9% coming from traditional biomass the share of which is declining.
- Useful heat energy from modern renewable sources accounted for an estimated 4.2% of total final energy use; hydropower made up about 3.8%, and an estimated 2% was provided by power from wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass, as well as by biofuels.
- For the first time, more solar PV than wind power capacity was added worldwide accounting for about one-third of renewable power capacity added during the year.
- Even as global investment in solar PV declined nearly 22% relative to 2012, new capacity installations increased by more than 32%. The solar PV market had a record year, adding more than 39 GW in 2013 for a total of approximately 139 GW. China saw spectacular growth, accounting for nearly one third of global capacity added, followed by Japan and the United States.
- China, the United States, Brazil, Canada, and Germany remained the top countries for total installed renewable power capacity.
- China’s new renewable power capacity surpassed new fossil fuel and nuclear capacity for the first time.
- In the European Union, 2013 marked the sixth consecutive year in which renewables represented the majority of new electricity generating capacity. The 72% share in 2013 is in stark contrast to a decade earlier, when conventional fossil generation accounted for 80% of new capacity in the EU-27 plus Norway and Switzerland.
- Renewables are achieving high levels of penetration in several countries. For example, throughout 2013, wind power met 33.2% and 20.9% of electricity demand in Denmark and Spain, respectively; in Italy, solar PV met 7.8% of total annual electricity demand.
- Growing numbers of cities, states, and regions seek to transition to 100% renewable energy in either individual sectors or economy-wide. For example, Djibouti, Scotland, and the small-island state of Tuvalu aim to derive 100% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Among those whom have already achieved their goals are about 20 million Germans who live in so-called 100% renewable energy regions.
- Uruguay, Mauritius, and Costa Rica were among the top countries for investment in new renewable power and fuels relative to annual GDP.
- Wind power was excluded from one of Brazil’s national auctions because it was pricing all other generation sources out of the market.
- More than 35 GW of wind power capacity was added in 2013, totalling just more than 318 GW. However, despite several record years, the market was down nearly 10 GW compared to 2012, reflecting primarily a steep drop in the U.S. market. Offshore wind had a record year, with 1.6 GW added, almost all of it in the EU.
- Heating and cooling from modern biomass, solar, and geothermal sources account for a small but gradually rising share of final global heat demand, amounting to an estimated 10%.
- Denmark banned the use of fossil fuel-fired boilers in new buildings as of 2013 and aims for renewables to provide almost 40% of total heat supply by 2020.
Global new investment in renewable power and fuels worldwide was at least $249 billion in 2013, down from its record level in 2011. However, the number of emerging economy nations with policies in place to support the expansion of renewable energy has surged more than six-fold in just eight years, from 15 developing countries in 2005 to 95 early in 2014.