- Countries around the world added about 180 GW of renewable energy capacity in 2018, roughly the same amount that was added in 2017, marking the first year since 2001 that renewable capacity additions did not increase year-over-year.
- That rate of green power additions is just 60% of what is needed to meet the long-term goals of the Paris climate accord, according to the International Energy Agency.
- Developers added 97 GW of new solar capacity last year falling just shy of "symbolic" triple digits, said IEA. The solar slowdown was in part due to changes to Chinese incentives — the country added 44 GW of solar capacity last year compared with 53 GW in 2017.
Alongside the declining cost of renewable energy, the stagnation of renewable capacity growth means more stable public policy is needed to stave off the worst impacts of climate change, say scientists.
"Thanks to rapidly declining costs, the competitiveness of renewables is no longer heavily tied to financial incentives," IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement. "What they mainly need are stable policies supported by a long-term vision."
Along with that, Birol said there must be a focus on the cost-effective and optimal integration of renewables into power system.
"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," Birol said.
In order to reach the goals of the Paris climate agreement, IEA says renewable capacity additions need to grow by more than 300 GW annually, through 2030. So far, however, the world appears to be losing ground: last year, energy-related CO2 emissions rose by 1.7%, despite a growth of 7% in renewables electricity generation.
The slowdown in solar growth mirrors trends already seen for other resources, IEA said.
"Since 2015, global solar PV's exponential growth had been compensating for slower increases in wind and hydropower," the group said. "But solar PV's growth flattened in 2018, adding 97 GW of capacity and falling short of expectations it would surpass the symbolic 100 GW mark."
While solar growth in the United States was stable from 2017 to 2018, IEA said additions increased in the European Union, Mexico, the Middle East and Africa, which together compensated for the slowdown in China.
Overall renewables additions in the United States did expand, largely due to faster onshore wind expansion.
"These 2018 data are deeply worrying, but smart and determined policies can get renewable capacity additions back on an upward trend," Birol said.
Despite growing focus on clean energy and the need to reduce emissions, the results have so far been mixed. IEA recently reported energy demand surged 2.3% last year, driven by a strong global economy and the rise in heating and cooling load. Natural gas accounted for 45% of the rise in consumption.