IRENA : Renewables growth 8.3 percent in 2015

Renewable energy capacity grew worldwide by a record 8.3 percent in 2015, according to a report published Thursday by a global green energy organisation. "As of the end of 2015, 1,985 (gigawatts) GW of renewable generation capacity existed globally," the International Renewable Energy Agency said in a statement.

The report from the Abu Dhabi-based organisation described an increase of 152 GW last year as "the highest annual growth rate on record," with wind and solar energy driving the hike "due in large part to a continued decline in technology costs." "Renewable energy deployment continues to surge in markets around the globe, even in an era of low oil and gas prices," said IRENA Director General Adnan Amin.

"Falling costs for renewable energy technologies, and a host of economic, social and environmental drivers are favouring renewables over conventional power sources," he said.

Wind power capacity grew by 17 percent, or 63 GW, "driven by declines in onshore turbine prices of up to 45 percent since 2010," said the report. Solar power capacity rose by 37 percent, or 47 GW, after prices of solar modules fell. However, hydropower capacity increased only by three percent, while bioenergy and geothermal energy capacity increased by five percent each.

"This impressive growth, coupled with a record $286 billion invested in renewables in 2015, sends a strong signal to investors and policymakers that renewable energy is now the preferred option for new power generation capacity around the world," said Amin.

The fastest growth in renewable energy capacity was registered in developing countries, led by Central America and the Caribbean, where it increased 14.5 percent.

In US, Wind and Solar Growth Outpace Gas in 2016.
More than half of electricity generation capacity added to the U.S. grid in 2016 came from renewable resources

More than half of the roughly 24,000 megawatts of electricity generation capacity added to the U.S. grid in 2016 came from renewable resources, according to new findings from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The agency estimates that 60 percent of all utility-scale generation capacity additions for the year were from wind and solar resources, while roughly 3 percent came from hydropower, biomass, landfill gas and other sources.

Among fossil fuels, natural gas accounted for the largest share of new electricity capacity in 2016, with an estimated 7,700 MW of new gas-fired power coming online (32 percent of all new capacity), while nuclear capacity grew by 1,347 MW (5.6 percent), officials confirmed. Utility-scale renewables have accounted for an increasingly large share of total capacity additions over the past several years, rising from 40 percent of new capacity in 2013 to 66 percent in 2015.

While the number of solar arrays and wind farms continued to rise overall in 2016, EIA noted that increased capacity does not necessarily translate into larger shares of renewable power generation. That's because renewables like wind and solar are intermittent and not available all the time, officials said.

The agency did report figures for monthly renewable energy generation over the 12-month period. In particular, EIA found that seasonal rains and melting snowpack in Western states led to a surge in hydropower production last March; it was sustained into April and May. The 2016 boost in hydropower from Western dams came as the region recovered from drought conditions in 2014 and 2015, EIA said.

A windy winter, spring and fall also helped drive strong wind energy production in 2016, although wind power and other renewable power production was more evenly distributed both seasonally and geographically, the agency found. Solar saw modest increases in output during the summer months and peaked in July.

According to its most recent “Short-Term Energy Outlook,” also released yesterday, EIA expects total renewable fuels used in the electric power sector to dip in 2017 before jumping by 7.3 percent in 2018. Consumption of non-hydro renewable energy is forecast to grow by 1.3 percent in 2017 and by 9.8 percent in 2018.

EIA reported that most renewable generation comes from Western states, which accounted for 63 percent of all U.S. hydroelectric power and 77 percent of all solar generation in 2016. Roughly 72 percent of the nation's wind power came from the Midwest and the South, notably Texas, while 24 percent came from Western states.

In contrast to the growth in renewable energy, EIA this week also reported that U.S. coal is expected to fall to its lowest level in nearly 40 years, at 743 million short tons. That vast majority of U.S. coal is burned to generate electricity.

Projected coal production for 2016 is down 17 percent from 2015, and it continues an eight-year tumble from peak coal production in 2008. Coal's decline last year was affected by a number of factors, including competition from low-cost natural gas, higher-than-normal temperatures during the 2015-16 winter, retirements of U.S. coal-fired power plants and reduced demand for U.S. coal exports, the agency said.

In 2016, natural-gas-fired power generation surpassed coal-fired generation for the first time, accounting for an estimated 34 percent of total electricity generation, compared with coal's 30 percent share. EIA's most recent “Short-Term Energy Outlook” forecasts that power-sector coal consumption in 2016 will be roughly 681 million short tons, the lowest level since 1985.

Renewables Grew 34%, Coal 9% In India In 2016

While the US saw domination of renewable energy technologies in its new capacity addition in 2016, India had an impressive milestone of its own last year. Capacity addition in India’s renewable energy sector increased by 34% compared to 9% in the coal-based power sector in 2016. Interestingly, growth in the coal-based power sector is relatively in-sync with the economic growth of the country, while growth in the renewable energy sector surpassed it by more than 4 times.

The overall growth rate in the thermal power sector (includes coal, diesel, and gas) was lower at 8%, with capacity contraction in the diesel sector. There was no growth in the nuclear power sector and around 1% growth in the large-hydro power sector (projects with more than 25 megawatts of capacity). Within the renewable energy sector, solar power grew by 107% with an addition of more than 4,600 megawatts. Bio-energy also grew by an impressive 78% but it was demoted to the third-largest renewable energy technology last year when solar power surpassed it.

Wind energy remained the largest renewable energy technology in India and grew by 18%.  42% Of India’s New Power Capacity Came From Renewables In 2016

While in rate of growth of renewables was almost 4 times that of the coal-based power sector, the absolute capacity added in the renewable energy sector was slightly lower than that in the coal sector. Nonetheless, this situation could soon be reversed as the Indian government has very ambitious solar capacity addition targets.

A total of 29,802 megawatts of new power generation capacity was added to India’s grid last year. More than 53%, or 15,950 megawatts, of this came from the coal-based power sector. Renewables contributed more than 42% to the new capacity added at 12,602 megawatts.

by ahmad senoadi
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