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Renewable power growth outpaced fossil fuels in 2019

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The renewable energy sector added 176 gigawatts (GW) of generating capacity globally in 2019, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

According to IRENA, the figures were marginally lower than the 179 GW added in 2018. However, new renewable power accounted for 72% of all power expansion in 2019. The Renewable Capacity Statistics 2020 shows that renewables expanded by 7.6% in 2019, with Asia leading growth and accounting for 54% of total additions.

While the expansion of renewables slowed in 2019, the total renewable power growth outpaced fossil fuel growth by a factor of 2.6, according to IRENA. Solar and wind contributed 90% of the total renewable capacity added in 2019.

The report shows that solar added 98 GW in 2019, 60% of which was in Asia. Wind energy expanded by around 60GW, led by China (26 GW) and the US (9 GW). The figures show that solar and wind now generate 623 GW and 586 GW respectively - close to half of global renewable capacity. Hydropower, bioenergy, geothermal and marine energy displayed "modest year-on-year expansion", according to IRENA, with 12 GW, 6 GW, 700 MW and 500 MW respectively.

China accounted for half of all new bioenergy capacity (+3.3 GW), while Germany, Italy, Japan and Turkey also saw expansion.

"Renewable energy is a cost-effective source of new power that insulates power markets and consumers from volatility, supports economic stability and stimulates sustainable growth," said Francesco La Camera, IRENA's director-general. "With renewable additions providing the majority of new capacity last year, it is clear that many countries and regions recognise the degree to which the energy transition can deliver positive outcomes.

"While the trajectory is positive, more is required to put global energy on a path with sustainable development and climate mitigation - both of which offer significant economic benefits. At this challenging time, we are reminded of the importance of building resilience into our economies. In what must be the decade of action, enabling policies are needed to increase investments and accelerate renewables adoption."