RENEWABLE ENERGY POLICY NETWORK FOR THE 21st CENTURY
Every year, we launch the Renewables Global Status Report (GSR) to present the latest data and facts on renewable energy policies, markets and investments. This year, however, something is different. We collectively witnessed the adoption of immediate and drastic measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ensuing lockdowns and economic consequences have disrupted everyone’s lives.
Time seems to be separated into a pre-COVID and a post-COVID period. Energy supply and demand have been dis- rupted, and carbon dioxide emissions fell. In such unprecedented times, stepping back to look at what happened in the renewable energy sector in 2019 may seem counterintuitive. But we need to do this.
It’s clear that we need to study the global picture with a long-term view to make the right decisions going forward. If we don’t, we risk getting sidetracked by a short-term perspective. As disruptive as COVID-19 has been, the crisis does not alter observable trends in the energy sector that have persisted for years. The truth remains: we need to enact a structural shift built on an efficient and renewable-based energy system if we want to decarbonise our economies.
Many of the same themes from prior years resurfaced again in GSR 2020. Year after year, we have reported success in the renewable power sector. And year after year, we have reported that renewables lag in other end-use sectors like heating, cooling and transport, and that these sectors suffer a lack of policy support. We need to report about successes as well as take a more critical look at areas where progress is weak, to enable better decision making and advance the uptake of renewables.
In the effort not only to provide accurate data but also to advance renewables in areas of weaker historic progress, GSR 2020 is different from former editions. Rather than only tracking support for renewables broadly, we decided to actively address the disconnect in progress among sectors. You will find some new figures and the start of ongoing data tracking on renewable energy policies, generation and use in different end-use sectors. We hope that this more specific look at each end-use sector (Buildings, Industry and Transport) will provide information needed to make better decisions.
At the halfway point of 2020, we find ourselves in a period of global flux. We are also in a moment of increasing conscious- ness: public support for renewables is at an all-time high, and many people are becoming more aware of the various benefits of renewable energy. Let’s seize this unique moment to create lasting policies, regulations and targets, and an environment that enables the switch to an efficient and renewable-based energy system. Globally. Now.
Some things don’t change, even after COVID-19. As with all REN21 publications, GSR 2020 is the product of a collabora- tive process built from an international community of renewable energy contributors, researchers and authors. This year’s report consolidates data from more than 350 experts to provide an up-to-date snapshot of the state of play of renewables. On behalf of the REN21 Secretariat, I would like to thank all those who contributed to the successful production of GSR 2020. Particular thanks go to the REN21 Research Direction Team of Hannah E. Murdock, Duncan Gibb and Thomas André; Special Advisors Janet L. Sawin and Adam Brown; the chapter authors; our editor Lisa Mastny; and the entire team at the REN21 Secretariat.
We sincerely hope that GSR 2020 will contribute to important changes in the near future.
Executive Director, REN21
01 GLOBAL OVERVIEW
Renewables grew rapidly in the power sector, while far
fewer advances have occurred in heating and transport.
Renewable energy had another record-breaking year in 2019i, as installed power capacity grew more than 200 gigawatts (GW) – its largest increase ever. Capacity installations and investment continued to spread to all corners of the world, and distributed renewable energy systems provided additional households in developing and emerging countries with access to electricity and clean cooking services. Also during the year, the private sector signed power purchase agreements (PPAs) for a record amount of renewable power capacity, driven mainly by ongoing cost reductions in some technologies.
Shares of renewables in electricity generation continued to rise around the world. In some countries, the share of renewables in heating, cooling and transport also grew, although these sectors continued to lag far behind due to insufficient policy support and slow developments in new technologies. This resulted in only a moderate increase in the overall share of renewables in total final energy consumption (TFEC), despite significant progress in the power sector.
As of 2018, modern renewable energy (excluding the traditional use of biomass) accounted for an estimated 11% of TFEC, only a slight increase from 9.6% in 2013. The highest share of renewable energy use (26.4%) was in electrical uses excluding heating, cooling and transport; however, these end- uses accounted for only 17% of TFEC in 2017. Energy use for
transport represented some 32% of TFEC and had a low share of renewables (3.3%), while the remaining thermal energy uses accounted for more than half of TFEC, of which 10.1% was supplied by renewables. Overall, the slow growth in the renewable energy share of TFEC indicated the complementary roles of energy efficiency and renewables in reducing the contribution of fossil fuels in meeting global energy needs.
Among the general public, support for renewable energy continued to advance alongside rising awareness of the multiple benefits of renewables, including reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions.
Governments around the world have stepped up their climate ambitions, and by year’s end 1,480 jurisdictions – spanning 28 countries and covering 820 million citizens – had issued “climate emergency” declarations, many of which were accompanied by plans and targets to transition to more renewable-based energy systems.
At the same time, while some countries were phasing out coal, others continued to invest in new coal-fired power plants, both domestically and abroad. In addition, funding from private banks for fossil fuel projects has increased each year since the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015, totalling USD 2.7 trillion between 2016 and 2019. Although energy-related CO2 emissions remained stable in 2019, the world is not on track to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (°C), let alone 1.5 °C, as stipulated in the Paris Agreement.
i The Renewables 2020 Global Status Report focuses on developments in renewable energy in 2019, and therefore does not reflect the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global energy systems. For immediate impacts on the renewable energy sector as of mid-2020, see Sidebar 1. An overview of the full impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on the sector will be included in GSR 2021.