Solar brings 45% of world's new power capacity in 2019 - BNEF

Solar park. Author: iamme ubeyou. License: CC0 1.0 Universal.

September 2 (Renewables Now) - With record 118 GW of commissioned capacity, solar photovoltaic (PV) was the main new power generation technology source in 2019, accounting for 45% of the world’s newly-installed capacity, BloombergNEF (BNEF) says.

Last year, solar PV was the global leader in terms of newly-built capacity and the most popular technology deployed by 33% of nations, whereas the share of fossil fuels slipped to 25%. The uptake was mainly due to the sharp declines in solar equipment costs, such as PV modules, which made the technology widely available for homes, businesses and grids, explained Luiza Demoro, BNEF analyst and lead author of BNEF’s study encompassing data from 138 countries.

The world’s cumulative installed solar capacity at the end of 2019 reached 651 GW, as compared to just 43.7 GW in 2010, surpassing the overall wind capacity of 644 GW. Coal remains, however, at the top of the ranking with 2,089 GW of power production capacity globally, followed by gas with 1,812 GW and hydropower with 1,160 GW. During the past year, 81 countries brought live at least 1 MW of solar, BNEF said, predicting that the market will continue its expansion and add 140 GW-178 GW of fresh capacity in 2022.

In terms of power output, solar was responsible for 2.7% of the world’s total electricity generation in 2019, up from 0.16% a decade ago.

Although the average utilisation rate at coal-fired power plants dropped to 50% last year, coal capacity jumped by 32% over the decade and came at 2.1 TW at end-2019, which in turn lifted output by 17% from the 2010 levels. The net additions in 2019 were 39 GW.

“Wealthier countries are moving quickly to mothball older, largely inefficient coal plants because they can’t compete with new gas or renewables projects,” said Ethan Zindler, head of Americas at BNEF. He added that coal-fired generation is still preferred by less developed nations, particularly in south and southeast Asia.


BNEF’s analysis shows that last year wind and solar were for the first time responsible for the majority of new power capacity deployments worldwide with 265 GW installed. The two power generation sources were previously most preferred by wealthier nations but the trend has taken a new route, according to the market researcher. Its data shows that the majority of new capacity built each year since 2011 was in a group of almost all OECD nations, whereas in a group of non-OECD nations plus Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Turkey, wind and solar contributed the majority of annual installations each year since 2016.

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Veselina Petrova is one of Renewables Now's most experienced green energy writers. For several years she has been keeping track of game-changing events both large and small projects and across the globe.

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