Solar Generation Growth Accelerated Markedly In 2019, But Wind Generation Lags Behind: EMBER

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The wind and solar generation rise of 270 TWh, but the growth rate is slowing – the 15% growth rate was the lowest this century, according to a report by Ember named “Global Electricity Review”.

The report states that a Compound growth rate of 15% of wind and solar generation is needed every year to meet the Paris climate agreement which was achieved in 2019 and lower prices provide hope it can be sustained. However, maintaining this high growth rate as volume scale-up will require a concerted effort from all regions.

Report added that China showed the fastest growth of 16% (+86 TWh) and the US the lowest with 11% (+41 TWh); India and the EU both recorded 13% growth rates (+13 TWh and +64 TWh respectively). Five further countries added 40 TWh between them: Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, and Vietnam.

The wind and solar growth rate of 15% must be maintained to meet the emissions reductions needed for the Paris climate agreement, said the Global Electricity Review.

From the world study, the report analyzes that, Solar generation increased around the world by 33% (+46 TWh) as a record level of new solar capacity was installed. There were strong additions from Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, and Australia. Vietnam’s solar capacity increased from 0.1 GW to 5.5 GW in 2019 alone. Wind generation grew 11% (+21 TWh) with good additions from Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico. However, wind generation grew at only half that of solar generation. 

In India, Solar capacity additions increased to a record 12 GW New solar capacity hit a new record at 12 GW, solar provided 3.4% of all electricity in 2019. India opened the world’s largest solar farm in 2019, but the growth in the wind was less impressive. Wind generation grew at the lowest rate since 2015, and new wind installations fell for the second year running, the report stated.

In 2019 solar capacity installed around the world was around 115 GW, 18% more than the previous year. USA, India and the European Union have seen increases of 56%, 36%, and 96% respectively in 2019 compensating for the decline in installations in China. The rest of the World countries have increased their installations by 56%. Whereas Wind capacity installed in 2019 is around 62 GW, 27% more than in 2018 but less than the 67 GW added in 2015. As such, growth has started to accelerate from the fat three years before. The European Union, Rest of World, China and USA have seen growth rates of 27%, 19%, 27%, and 53% respectively, while India has seen a 12% decline.

According to the IEA SDS, “A four-fold increase in wind and solar generation is needed by 2030 to replace the coal generation”.

The global decline of coal and power sector emissions is good news for the climate but governments have to dramatically accelerate the electricity transition so that global coal generation collapses throughout the 2020s.

To switch from coal into gas is just swapping one fossil fuel for another. The cheapest and quickest way to end coal generation is through a rapid roll-out of wind and solar. But without concerted policy-maker efforts to boost wind and solar, we will fail to meet climate targets.China’s growth in coal, and to some extent gas, is alarming but the answers are all there. The EU leaps out with 18% of electricity now coming from wind and solar, but with the US on 11%, China at 9% and India at 8% – the race is on.”Dave Jones, Electricity Analyst at EMBER said.

Report also studied that there was a historic decline in CO2 emissions which was largely caused by Europe and the US shifting away from coal which resulted in a global decline of 3 percent in coal-fired power generation, which is also the largest drop in 30 years But for the first time Chinese coal generation rose and was responsible for half of the global coal generation.

Commenting on the same Global Electricity Review said “Falling coal generation is not yet the “new normal”, which means limiting climate change to 1.5 degrees is looking extremely difficult”.

Ember is an independent climate think tank accelerating the global electricity transition. This is the first annual review of the global power sector by Ember and the spreadsheet contains a complete data set of 224 countries, with generation by fuel type by year from 2000 to 2019.

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