REN21 has published its Renewables 2017 Global Status Report (GSR), the most comprehensive annual overview of the state of renewable energy.
Additions in installed renewable power capacity set new records in 2016, with 161 gigawatts (GW) installed, increasing total global capacity by almost 9% over 2015, to nearly 2,017 GW. Solar PV accounted for around 47% of the capacity added, followed by wind power at 34% and hydropower at 15.5%.
Renewables are becoming the least cost option. Recent deals in Denmark, Egypt, India, Mexico, Peru and the United Arab Emirates saw renewable electricity being delivered at USD 0.05 per kilowatt-hour or less. This is well below equivalent costs for fossil fuel and nuclear generating capacity in each of these countries. Winners of two recent auctions for offshore wind in Germany have done so relying only on the wholesale price of power without the need for government support, demonstrating that renewables can be the least cost option.
The inherent need for “baseload” is a myth. Integrating large shares of variable renewable generation can be done without fossil fuel and nuclear “baseload” with sufficient flexibility in the power system – through grid interconnections, sector coupling and enabling technologies such as ICT, storage systems electric vehicles and heat pumps. This sort of flexibility not only balances variable generation, it also optimizes the system and reduces generation costs overall It comes as no surprise, therefore that the number of countries successfully managing peaks approaching or exceeding 100% electricity generation from renewable sources are on the rise. In 2016, Denmark and Germany, for example, successfully managed peaks of renewables electricity of 140% and 86.3%, respectively.
Global energy-related CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and industry remained stable for a third year in a row despite a 3% growth in the global economy and an increased demand for energy. This can be attributed primarily to the decline of coal, but also to the growth in renewable energy capacity and to improvements in energy efficiency.
Other positive trends include:
Innovations and breakthroughs in storage technology will increasingly provide additional flexibility to the power system. In 2016, approximately 0.8 GW of new advanced energy storage capacity became operational, bringing the year-end total to an estimated 6.4 GW.