Huge growth in PV and wind helped renewables grow to over 30% of installed global power

Renewable energy sources are moving in the right direction, as they continue to grow their share of the global energy mix. This was made abundantly clear in the World Energy Council’s new ‘Variable Renewables Integration in Electricity Systems 2016 – How to get it right’ report, which showed that solar PV had enjoyed the most dramatic rise of all renewable technologies in the last ten years, with an annual growth of 50%.

The outstanding statistic coming out of the report was that renewable energies now account for over 30% of the world’s total installed power generation capacity and 23% of the world’s total electricity production. This is up from 21% in 2004, with installed cumulative renewable capacity growing from 842 GW in 2004 to 1,965 GW in 2015.

A large amount of this growth can be put down to solar PV and wind energy, which have both experienced dramatic capacity increases in these years, with annual growth of 50% and 23% respectively. Interestingly, even with this growth, these two technologies combined only account for 4% of the global electricity supply, although this figure is expected to increase significantly in the coming.

Reasons for the growth

As with any industry, huge increases in investment have been largely responsible for the expansion of renewable energy deployment, again, much of this has been in both solar PV and wind. In fact, in 2015, a whopping USD 286 billion was invested in renewable energies – 76% of that was in PV and wind – which resulted in 154 GW being added to global capacity generation, while on 97 GW of conventional generation was added.

However, investment in capacity upgrades alone cannot account for the rise, as it is really the improvements in the technologies that are driving down costs and leading to the expansion of renewable technologies in markets around the world. These recent developments have accounted for a large downward trend in prices for renewable energies. In fact, just yesterday a record low bid of USD 24.2 per MWh was entered into a tender for a utility-scale PV plant in Abu Dhabi.

For renewable energies to continue to thrive, future improvements in technologies and the creation of new technologies are vital. Equally important are policy frameworks to encourage renewable deployment. There are now renewable energy support policies in place in 164 countries around the world, and this number will hopefully grow.

Additionally, the report offers a number of recommendations to address the challenge of sustainable variable renewables integration, including clear definition of market rules to help sustainable energy systems, the introduction of capacity markets, development of weather forecasting methodologies, and the propensity for industry and policymakers to address emerging issues.

“The success of both the development of intermittent renewables and their efficient integration in electricity systems fundamentally depends on the right market design and regulatory framework and solar regional planning to avoid bottlenecks,” commented World Energy Council Secretary General Christoph Frei. “We are beyond the tipping point of grand energy transition. Implementing technically and economically sound, stable policies supported by clear carbon price signals will enable this transition and take us a step closer to meeting the climate aspirations agreed at COP21.”