Renewable energy growth stalls in ’18 threatening climate goals – IEA

After almost 20 years of strong yearly growth, development of renewable energy sources stalled overall in 2018 and recorded similar growth to levels recorded in 2017, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Monday.

The major energy consumer group said that in the renewable sector “an unexpected flattening of growth trends…raises concerns about meeting long-term climate goals.”

For the first time since 2001, growth in capacity in the renewable power sector failed to increase compared with the previous year’s growth, with a hike of only 180 Gigawatts (GW) for solar, wind, hydro, bio-energy and other sources of renewables.

The increase represents only 60 percent of net increases needed to reach the target set for meeting long-term climate objectives, the IEA said in a report.

A statement also stressed that renewable capacity, which was either flat or declined in 2018 depending on the sector, must grow by over 300 GW on average each year until 2030 to reach the goals set by the Paris Climate Accord in 2015.

Last year’s performance for renewable energy growth was labelled an “unexpected break in the trend,” the Paris-based agency said. The analysis carried out by the IEA “shows the world in not doing enough” to meet climate goals, it affirmed.

Noting nonetheless a “record” seven percent increase in electricity generation from the renewable sector, the Agency remarked that energy-related CO2 emissions had risen at the same time by 1.7 percent or 33 Gigatonnes (GT), which it described as a “historic high” at a time of record levels of emissions in the power sector.

“The world cannot afford to press ‘pause’ on the expansion of renewables and governments need to act quickly to correct this situation and enable a faster flow of new projects,” IEA Chief Fatih Birol said in comments.

Noting financial criteria were no longer a valid reason not to develop renewables, he called for national initiatives to boost use of these energy sources. “What they mainly need are stable policies supported by a long-term vision but also a focus on integrating renewables into power systems in a cost-effective and optimal way. Stop-and-go policies are particularly harmful to markets and jobs,” Birol warned.

He called for more efforts to develop solar power, which slowed in China last year but which was offset by European Union production, in addition to more solar production in Mexico, the Middle East and Africa.

Despite the slowdown, China still accounted for 45 percent of the growth in solar capacity, accounting for a hike of 44 GW. The IEA said that the target growth for solar energy growth in 2018 was 100 GW but registered increases only reached 97 GW.