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IRENA reports new record for renewable energy in 2015

Wellhead plants of GEG at Olkaria, Kenya (source: GEG/ Lydur Skulason)
Alexander Richter 12 Apr 2016

International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reports a new record for renewable energy with an increase by 152 GW or around 8.3%, of which around 600 MW can be attributed to additional geothermal capacity.

According to a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), renewable generation capacity increased by 152 gigawatts (GW) or 8.3% during 2015, the highest annual growth rate on record. The report on Renewable Capacity Statistics 2016 finds that as of the end of 2015, 1,985 GW of renewable generation capacity existed globally.

“Renewable energy deployment continues to surge in markets around the globe, even in an era of low oil and gas prices. Falling costs for renewable energy technologies, and a host of economic, social and environmental drivers are favoring renewables over conventional power sources,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “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.”

2015 was a record year for both wind and solar due in large part to a continued decline in technology costs. Wind power grew 63 GW (17%) driven by declines in onshore turbine prices of up to 45% since 2010. Solar capacity increased 47 GW (26%) thanks to price drops of up to 80% for solar photovoltaic modules in the same time period. Hydropower capacity increased by 35 GW (3%), while both bioenergy and geothermal energy capacity increased 5% each (5 GW and 1 GW respectively).

Overall, capacity has increased by roughly one-third over the last five years, with most of this growth coming from new installations of wind and solar energy.

In terms of regional distribution, the fastest growth in renewable generation capacity came in developing countries. Central America and the Caribbean expanded at a rate of 14.5%. In Asia, where additions accounted for 58% of new global renewable power generation capacity in 2015, capacity expanded at a rate of 12.4%. Capacity increased by 24 GW (5.2%) in Europe and 20 GW (6.3%) in North America.

“The significant growth rates for renewable generation capacity in developing economies are a testament to the strong business case for renewable energy,” said Mr. Amin. “Renewables are not just a solution for industrialized countries, they are also powering economic growth in the fastest growing economies in the developing world.”

At year end, hydropower accounted for the largest share of the global total renewable power generation capacity with an installed capacity of 1,209 GW, the majority of which are large-scale plants. Wind and solar energy accounted for most of the remainder, with an installed capacity of 432 GW and 227 GW respectively. Other renewables included 104 GW of bioenergy, 13 GW of geothermal energy and about 500 MW of marine energy (tide, wave and ocean).

Geothermal power generation capacity increased by 600 MW in 2015, with almost all of this increase coming from only the four countries of Italy, Mexico, Turkey and the U.S.

Source: IRENA