Renewables Information: Overview

Comprehensive historical review and current market trends in renewable energy
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In this report

Renewables Information provides a comprehensive review of historical and current market trends in OECD countries. It provides an overview of the development of renewables and waste in the world since 1990. A greater focus is given to the OECD countries with a review of electricity generation and capacity from renewable and waste energy sources, including detailed tables. However, an overview of developments in the world and OECD renewable and waste market is also presented. The publication encompasses energy indicators, generating capacity, electricity and heat production from renewable and waste sources, as well as production and consumption of renewables and waste. Renewables Information is one of a series of annual IEA statistical publications on major energy sources; other reports are Coal Information, Electricity Information, Natural Gas Information and Oil Information.
Data Service

In 2018, world total energy supply (TES) was 14 282 Mtoe, of which 13.5% was produced from renewable energy sources, which includes hydro, biofuels, renewable municipal waste, solar PV, solar thermal, wind, geothermal and tidal.

Due to its widespread use in developing countries for heating and cooking, solid biofuels/‌charcoal is by far the largest renewable energy source, and the second largest source is hydro. Liquid biofuels, wind, geothermal, solar, biogases, renewable municipal waste and tidal make up the rest of the renewables energy supply.

Fuel shares in world TES, 2018


Since 1990, renewable energy sources have grown at an average annual rate of 2.0%, which is slightly higher than the growth rate of world TES, 1.8%.

Growth has been especially high for solar PV and wind power, which grew at average annual rates of 36.5% and 23.0% respectively. Biogases had the third highest growth rate at 11.5%, followed by solar thermal (10.9%) and liquid biofuels (9.7%).

Average annual growth rates of world renewables supply, 1990-2018


In 2019, the share of renewables in total OECD primary energy supply reached a new high of 10.8%.

Each OECD region also showed increases in the share of renewables in 2019 reaching 16.0% in OECD Europe, 9.2% in OECD Americas and 5.9% in OECD Asia/Oceania.

Fuel shares in OECD total energy supply, 2019


Renewables showed a larger increase in average annual growth from 2000 to 2019 at 3.1% than from 1990 to 2000 at 0.9%. The growth of renewables has been accelerating recently with 3.0% in the period from 2000 to 2010 and 3.3% in 2010 to 2019. By contrast, the average annual growth rates in modern renewables, such as solar, wind, liquid biofuels, biogases, renewable municipal wastes and tidal, seem to be slowing down for the same time periods. In the period 2000 to 2010, the growth rate was 15.2% while for 2010 to 2019 it was 8.8%. The drop in growth rate in the latter period was influenced by reduced growth in liquid biofuels, biogases and renewable municipal wastes.

Average annual growth rates of renewables supply in OECD, 2000-2019


In comparison, solid biofuels and hydro influenced much of renewables growth between 1990 and 2000. Despite this, the contribution of modern renewables to the total energy supply was minor until more recently. The combined share of total primary energy supply in the OECD for liquid biofuels, wind, solar, biogases, renewable municipal waste, and tidal represented 3.1% in 1990, 7.6% in 2000, 23.2% in 2010 and 37.2% in 2019.

OECD renewable primary energy supply by product, 1990-2019


Renewables are the second largest contributor to global electricity production. They accounted for 25.2% of world generation in 2018, after coal and ahead of gas, nuclear and oil.

Historically, the relative positions of renewables and natural gas have been influenced by various factors, including weather conditions. Policies which favour renewables over fossil fuels have also contributed to the increasing importance of renewables in world electricity production.

Fuel shares in world electricity production, 2018


In the OECD, hydro power production makes up the largest share of renewable sources in power production – but it had the second lowest average growth rate of any renewable electricity source from 1990 to 2019. Wind grew from 0.3% in 1990 to 28.3% of renewable electricity in 2019, a 20.4% average annual growth rate, making it the second largest renewable source for electricity.

The share of solar PV in OECD renewable electricity production had a 33.1% average annual growth rate in the same time period.

Average annual growth rates of electricity production in OECD, 1990-2019


From 1990 to 2018, the renewable shares of generating capacities for OECD countries have increased and the average annual growth rates of renewables and waste generating capacities (3.8%) have outpaced the average annual growth rates of non-renewable generating capacities (1.4%).

Shares of OECD generating capacity, 1990-2018


On a global level, the majority of renewables are consumed in the residential, commercial and public services sectors. This is a consequence of the widespread use of solid biofuels in the residential sector in developing countries.

The transformation sector (electricity and heat) accounted for 40.5% of renewables consumption worldwide, while 39.6% are used in the residential, commercial and public sectors.

World sectoral consumption of renewables, 2018


In the OECD, the majority of the consumption of renewables has been in the transformation sector for the last three decades. In the other sectors, there has been a diversification of renewables demand, with the most significant trend being the steep growth of biofuels used for transport. In 2018, liquid biofuels and biogases used for transport constituted 10.3% of renewables consumption.

OECD sectoral consumption of renewables, 1990 and 2018