Solar and wind power accounted for over two-thirds of the 265GW of new capacity installed worldwide in 2019, up from less than a quarter of new build in 2010, according to data from BloombergNEF. Photovoltaics (PV) topped all other technologies in new-build terms, with a record 118 gigawatts constructed, and was the most popular technology deployed in a third of nations, the research company said.
In all, 81 countries built at least 1 megawatt of solar during the last calendar year and solar accounted for almost half, 45 percent, of all new power generation capacity constructed worldwide, BloombergNEF highlighted in its Power Transition Trends 2020 report. Including hydro power, renewables made up three-quarters of 2019 commissioned capacity, with fossil fuels’ share sliding to 25 percent.
With 651GW of total capacity installed worldwide by the end of 2019, solar has overtaken wind (644GW) to become the fourth-largest source of power on a capacity basis, having totaled just 43.7GW of installed capacity at the start of the decade. While it still lags coal (2,089GW), gas (1,812GW), and hydro (1,160GW), BNEF expects solar to continue to grow, with 140-178GW of new solar seen to be built in 2022.
“Sharp declines in solar equipment costs, namely the modules that go on rooftops and in fields, have made this technology widely available for homes, businesses and grids,” said Luiza Demôro, BNEF analyst and lead author of the study. “PV is now truly ubiquitous and a worldwide phenomenon.”
Still, on a generation basis, solar’s contributions are considerably smaller due to PV’s lower capacity factors compared to fossil fuels, BloombergNEF said. In 2019, solar accounted for 2.7 percent of electricity generated worldwide, BNEF found, although that compares with just 0.16 percent a decade ago.
Power produced from coal dropped 3 percent last year – the first fall in coal generation since 2015 – as plants ran less frequently, the research company said. However, global coal capacity has soared 32 percent over the past decade, to reach 2.1TW in 2019, as more than 113GW of net coal retirements in developed nations in the period could not offset the 691GW flood of net new coal in emerging markets. In 2019, the world saw 39GW of net new coal capacity installed, up significantly from 2018 when 19GW of coal was completed, according to BloombergNEF.