Renewable energy use increased by 3.7% in 2019 at the global level, up slighty from the previous year. The use of renewable energy in electricity supply accounted for the vast majority of the overall growth, due to widespread policy support and falling technology costs. Renewable energy use in transport and heat production made incremental gains as well.

In 2019, global electricity generation from renewables increased 440 TWh (6.5% year-on-year), the second-highest rise after 2018. Combined with weak electricity demand growth, 2019 marked the first time that renewables outpaced the total rise of electricity generation in times of global economic expansion. The year-on-year growth of renewables generation was 6.5%, faster than any other fuel including coal and natural gas. The share of renewables in global electricity supply reached 27% in 2019, the highest level ever recorded. Wind power, solar PV and hydropower together made up over 85% of renewables growth, complemented mainly by bioenergy.

Electricity demand and renewables generation growth, 2010-2019

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The rise of renewables-based electricity generation continued to be widespread in 2019, with growth in all corners of the world. China once again led the way with a 190 TWh increase in renewables-based electricity generation in 2019 (over 40% of the global total). The European Union and India saw year-on-year increases of 40 TWh and 30 TWh respectively. Brazil recorded the fourth-largest increase in renewable output, with higher hydropower generation as the country continues to recover from the severe drought and new projects came online in both 2018 and 2019.

Wind power increased by about 150 TWh year-on-year, the most of any renewable power generation technology, raising its share of electricity supply from 4.7% to 5.2% in 2019. The European Union, China and United States led wind output growth with a combination of offshore and onshore projects coming online and favourable weather conditions. China’s wind capacity additions increased for the second year in row, exceeding 25 GW in 2019, and curtailment rates across all wind projects continued to decline. In both the European Union and United States, annual capacity additions increased as policy deadlines approached, the European Union’s 2020 target on one hand and the expiration of the United States production tax credit (PTC) on the other.

Solar PV electricity generation increased by about 130 TWh globally in 2019, second only to wind in absolute terms, reaching 2.7% of electricity supply. Solar PV’s year-on-year growth of 22% far exceeded that of wind power, though this growth was significantly lower compared to 2018 as global solar PV capacity additions stalled in 2018, and China’s deployment further contracted in 2019. Meanwhile, the European Union, India and the United States contributed similarly to the solar output increase. South East Asia region saw a sharp rise in solar PV generation driven by a surge in new capacity in Vietnam (6 GW in 2019, up from 0.6 GW in 2018). Solar PV accounts for almost 3% of global electricity mix.

Annual growth of renewable electricity generation by region and technology, 2019

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Hydropower contributed over 100 TWh to the 2019 global increase in renewables generation, lifting its share of electricity supply to 16% and remaining the largest source of renewable electricity. Compared to the previous year, 2019 was a wet year, boosting hydropower output in several key markets. In China, Brazil and India, hydropower increased more in 2019 in absolute terms than the ten-year average due to water availability and new hydropower projects. In contrast, the United States and European Union saw hydropower output decline by about 7% each. Hydropower will continue to play a key role in clean energy transitions by providing cost-effective low-carbon electricity and flexibility services that improve the reliability of power systems. IEA’s Renewables 2020 market forecasts report will focus on hydropower and shed light on recent developments, investment and policy trends

Electricity generation from bioenergy rose 8%, maintaining its global share of electricity supply at about 2.5%. Growth was mainly driven by new projects in China, thanks to the country’s policy target of 23 GW by 2020, specified in the 13th Five-Year Plan. Other growth occurred in the European Union, with full-year operations of recently completed large-scale biomass projects in the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Denmark.

In addition to activity in the electricity sector, renewables consumption increased by almost 8% in transport in 2019. Growth was largely the result of a 13% jump in ethanol output in Brazil, a leading biofuel market, achieved by mills maximising ethanol production at the expense of sugar due to low international sugar prices. Strengthened policy support for domestically produced biofuels in China also supported the 2019 growth of biofuels consumption.

Heat is the largest energy end-use before transport and electricity, accounting for half of global final energy consumption. Renewable energy use for heat increased slightly in 2019, with bioenergy remaining the largest source followed by solar thermal and geothermal. The traditional uses of solid biomass, which has low efficiency and result in negative human health, socioeconomic and environmental impacts, still make up the majority of bioenergy use in heating. Solar thermal mostly use in small domestic solar water heaters in the residential sector continued to increase last year but the growth has slowed down due to reduced construction activities, market saturation, competition with other technologies, and the phase-out of incentives.

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