Global renewable energy (RE) generation capacity hit 2,179 gigawatts (GW) in 2017, according to the latest statistics from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
Leading the charge were renewable hydro, onshore wind and solar PV.
Solar saw the most impressive year-on-year growth, at 32%, with wind seeing growth of just 10%.
Up 8.3% on 2016, last year saw the addition of 167 GW of renewable energy capacity says IRENA, thus taking cumulative capacity to 2,179 GW.
Hydropower accounts for the lion’s share of this, at 1,270 GW, followed by wind at 513 GW (around 495 GW of onshore and 19 GW of offshore) and solar at 390 GW (around 385 GW of PV and 5 GW of CSP).
Overall, solar saw the most impressive year-on-year growth, at 32%, according to IRENA’s Renewable Capacity Statistics 2018 report, with wind seeing growth of just 10%. And while hydro still comprises the most capacity, that commissioned in 2017 was said to be the lowest seen in the last decade.
Global investments of $2.7 trillion from 2007 to 2017 have expanded the proportion of world electricity generated by wind, solar, geothermal, small-scale hydropower plants, marine, and biomass and waste-to-energy from 5.2 to 12.1%
“Underlying this growth are substantial cost reductions, with the levelised cost of electricity from solar PV decreasing by 73%, and onshore wind by nearly one-quarter, between 2010 and 2017. Both technologies are now well within the cost range of power generated by fossil fuels,”said IRENA.
Off-grid renewables capacity saw “unprecedented” growth in 2017, with an estimated 6.6 GW of new capacity. Representing 10% growth on 2016, around 146 million people are now said to benefit from off-grid installations.
Similar to the situation in solar PV, China dominated global renewable energy capacity last year, installing nearly half of all new capacity, while India followed in second place.
China was by far the country that invested the most in renewables a year ago, reaching a record $126.6 billion, up 31 percent when compared to 2016.
"Investments in renewables bring more people into the economy, they deliver more jobs, better quality jobs and better paid jobs,” said IRENA.
Overall, Asia accounted for 64% of new renewable energy capacity additions in 2017, up from 58% last year, calculates IRENA. It also dominated the solar PV market too, comprising 72 GW of the just under 100 GW installed globally. Europe, meanwhile, followed with 24 GW of new renewable energy capacity, and North America, 16 GW.
"The extraordinary surge in solar investment shows how the global energy map is changing and, more importantly, what the economic benefits are of such a shift", said Erik Solheim, the head of UN Environment.
A record 157GW of renewable power were commissioned a year ago, up from 143GW in 2016 and far out-stripping the net 70GW of fossil-fuel generating capacity added (after adjusting for the closure of some existing plants) over the same period, according to IRENA.
"The markets are there and renewables can take on coal, they can take on oil and gas".
The surge in capital spending drove installations to a record high of 98GW, outstripping the 70GW of new fossil fuel capacity added over the same period.