Renewable power

Tracking Clean Energy Progress

More efforts needed

In 2018, renewable electricity generation rose 7%, with wind and solar PV technologies together accounting for 60% of this increase. Although the share of renewables in global electricity generation reached 26% in 2018, renewable power as a whole still needs to expand significantly to meet the SDS share of half of generation by 2030. This requires the rate of annual capacity additions to accelerate; however, renewable capacity growth stalled in 2018 for the first time since 2001.

Heymi Bahar
Lead author

Share of renewables in power generation

	Low carbon 	Renewables
2000	35.35182448	18.36559433
2001	35.09151663	17.90618585
2002	34.51305531	17.8274563
2003	33.32882749	17.41873988
2004	33.64636133	17.84474488
2005	33.3162649	18.00412933
2006	33.02102044	18.14984674
2007	31.78039063	17.89809635
2008	32.28277547	18.58346722
2009	32.93931351	19.36389966
2010	32.6194428	19.55360993
2011	31.80048507	19.90599511
2012	31.97261555	20.87056328
2013	32.52627338	21.66194752
2014	33.25410756	22.34519841
2015	33.66798662	22.80904278
2016	34.51647783	23.83251351
2017	35.00085233	24.44460533
2018	35.70686333	25.23796509
2025	49.3756944	37.82935019
2030	62.71312351	48.62234959
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Back to Power sector | TCEP overview 🕐 Last updated Friday, May 24, 2019

Tracking progress


Generation by technology

Of all energy sources in the electricity sector, renewables had the highest rate of generation growth in 2018. Renewables-based electricity generation increased by 7% (almost 450 TWh) – equivalent to Brazil’s entire electricity demand, and faster than the 6% average annual growth since 2010.

Solar PV, hydropower and wind each accounted for less than one third of 2018 total electricity generation growth, with bioenergy representing most of the rest. Taken together, renewables fuelled almost 45% of the world's increase in electricity generation, and they now account for almost 26% of global electricity output, second after coal.

Renewable power overall needs to sustain annual growth of 7% over 2018-30 to meet the SDS level. This will require faster deployment of all renewable technologies including hydropower, which represented 65% of global renewable generation in 2018, but on the contrary, the rate of annual renewable capacity additions did not rise last year.

Solar PV is still on track with the SDS, with generation increasing by over 30% in 2018 thanks to continuous policy support and cost reductions. In addition, the tracking status for bioenergy was upgraded from 'needs improvement' to 'on track'; several policy and market developments in China contributed significantly to this status change.


Renewable power generation by technology

Solar PV and bioenergy are the only two technologies on track with the SDS, while all others need to advance more quickly.

	Ocean	CSP	Geothermal	Bioenergy	Solar PV	Offshore wind	Onshore wind	Hydropower
2000	0.55	0.53	51.99	132.13	0.99	0.13	31.22	2618.25
2001	0.52	0.57	51.57	132.70	1.32	0.20	38.25	2561.13
2002	0.53	0.57	52.29	145.99	1.58	0.38	52.47	2628.80
2003	0.53	0.55	54.09	156.98	2.02	1.35	62.88	2641.58
2004	0.51	0.59	56.50	172.10	2.68	2.01	82.42	2812.15
2005	0.52	0.60	58.28	192.20	3.91	2.52	101.40	2934.78
2006	0.49	0.55	59.61	206.15	5.51	3.09	129.97	3044.65
2007	0.50	0.69	62.29	225.46	7.45	4.15	166.69	3083.31
2008	0.49	0.90	64.92	244.15	11.89	5.41	215.64	3213.23
2009	0.49	0.92	67.04	266.01	20.03	4.97	272.47	3267.48
2010	0.51	1.65	68.12	310.40	32.19	7.71	333.69	3445.32
2011	0.51	2.86	69.23	328.24	63.17	11.71	424.30	3514.00
2012	0.50	4.75	70.22	356.41	99.02	14.79	509.33	3677.82
2013	0.93	5.87	71.64	389.23	139.45	20.72	625.90	3809.02
2014	1.00	8.42	77.44	423.82	190.17	24.63	693.71	3905.90
2015	1.01	9.61	80.47	451.26	250.23	38.93	799.61	3904.66
2016	1.03	10.47	81.66	498.55	328.04	41.49	916.22	4061.47
2017	1.10	11.03	87.48	531.43	434.62	54.60	1030.25	4109.44
2018	1.14	11.86	92.71	592.19	570.78	65.79	1149.36	4243.51
2019	1.15	17.96	93.00	637.38	754.94	81.42	1268.55	4274.23
2020	1.16	20.68	97.12	676.48	911.60	98.35	1378.32	4364.40
2021	1.20	23.27	101.46	708.28	1079.74	115.68	1492.28	4440.00
2022	1.22	28.26	106.14	737.33	1262.83	140.71	1604.83	4505.38
2023	1.24	30.69	110.60	764.14	1459.76	173.45	1708.14	4576.45
2025	3.95	53.80	162.15	921.81	1939.55	307.48	2399.47	5011.70
2030	14.95	183.83	282.04	1168.21	3267.95	606.35	3748.75	5722.36
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Stable and predictable renewable policies

For all renewable power technologies, the long-term stability of targets and policies is essential to ensure investor confidence and continued growth. At the same time, policies need to continuously adapt to changing market conditions to achieve greater cost-competitiveness and improve integration of renewables into the system.

Policy shift to competitive auctions

Different policy instruments have been used to support renewable electricity deployment through different stages of technological maturity. Options include administratively set feed-in tariffs or premiums, renewable portfolio standards, quotas and tradeable green certificate schemes, net metering, tax rebates and capital grants. Some of these instruments have been introduced in parallel.

Recently, auctions (for centralised, competitive procurement of renewables) have become increasingly widespread and have been instrumental in discovering renewable energy prices and containing policy costs in many countries, especially for solar PV and wind.

However, the success of such policies in achieving deployment and development objectives relies on their design and ability to attract investment and competition.

Distributed PV

Increasingly, distributed generation is supported through net metering and net billing, with a number of possibilities to remunerate excess electricity fed into the grid.

However, careful consideration is needed to avoid jeopardising the electricity network’s cost recovery and creating cross-subsidisation among those customers that self-consume and those that do not.

Policy design for variable renewables

Increasingly competitive, renewables – especially solar PV and wind – are rapidly transforming power systems worldwide. However, reforms to market design and policy frameworks will be needed to ensure investment at scale both in new renewable capacities and in power system flexibility to integrate high shares of variable renewables in a reliable and cost-effective manner.

As variable renewable energy shares increase, policies ensuring investment in all forms of flexibility become crucial.

These include, for example, policies and measures to:

  • enhance power plant flexibility by improving operations of the existing conventional fleet
  • unlock demand-side management, for example by allowing the participation of pools of consumers in the system services market
  • support energy storage
  • improve and enhance grid infrastructure

Addressing technology-specific challenges

Some renewable technologies are still relatively expensive and/or face specific technology and market challenges, so require more targeted policies.

These policies could address:

  • better remuneration of the market value of storage for concentrating solar power (CSP) and pumped-storage technologies
  • timely grid connection and continued implementation of policies that spur competition to achieve further cost reductions for offshore wind
  • improved policies to tackle pre-development risks for geothermal energy
  • larger demonstration projects for ocean technologies

Other policy actions are needed to reflect the multiple benefits of bioenergy for electricity, including rural development, waste management and dispatchability.

Sector coupling becomes important

As the transport, heating and cooling, and power sectors become increasingly interdependent, cross-linked decision making and policies designed to be beneficial across sectors will be crucial.

For example, the success of electric vehicle (EV) deployment will depend critically on the strengthening of electricity distribution networks and smart charging systems at the local level.

Renewable power technologies


Solar PV remains on track with the SDS, with generation increasing by over 30% in 2018 thanks to continued policy support and cost reductions.

Bioenergy was upgraded from ‘more efforts needed’ to ‘on track’ due to positive policy and market developments in China.

The tracking status of onshore wind, offshore wind and hydropower remains unchanged as ‘more efforts needed’, while concentrating solar power, geothermal and ocean power remain well below the growth rates necessary to meet clean energy goals.


Solar PV

Although capacity additions remained flat in 2018, solar PV generation increased 31% in 2018, and represented the largest absolute generation growth (+136 TWh) of all renewable technologies, slightly ahead of wind and hydropower. Despite recent policy changes and uncertainties in China, India and the United States, solar PV competitiveness improved. Solar PV is still on track to reach the levels envisioned in the SDS, which will require average annual growth of 16% between 2018 and 2030.

Solar PV power generation

Historical development, forecast, and SDS

	Historical	Forecast	SDS
2000	1.0		
2001	1.3		
2002	1.6		
2003	2.0		
2004	2.7		
2005	3.9		
2006	5.5		
2007	7.5		
2008	11.9		
2009	20.0		
2010	32.2		
2011	63.2		
2012	99.0		
2013	139.4		
2014	190.2		
2015	250.2		
2016	328.0		
2017	434.6		
2018	570.8		
2019		754.9	
2020		911.6	
2021		1079.7	
2022		1262.8	
2023		1459.8	
2025			1939.6
2030			3268.0
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Onshore wind

In 2018, onshore wind electricity generation increased by an estimated 12%, while capacity additions only grew 7%. However, more efforts are needed: annual additions of onshore wind capacity need to increase much faster through 2030 to get on track with the SDS.

Onshore wind power generation

Historical development, forecast, and SDS

	Historical	Forecast	SDS
2000	31.2		
2001	38.3		
2002	52.5		
2003	62.9		
2004	82.4		
2005	101.4		
2006	130.0		
2007	166.7		
2008	215.6		
2009	272.5		
2010	333.7		
2011	424.3		
2012	509.3		
2013	625.9		
2014	693.7		
2015	799.6		
2016	916.2		
2017	1030.2		
2018	1149.4		
2019		1268.6	
2020		1378.3	
2021		1492.3	
2022		1604.8	
2023		1708.1	
2025			2399.5
2030			3748.7
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Offshore wind

Compared with record 32% growth in 2017, offshore wind electricity generation increased only 20% in 2018. Given its relatively small base, offshore wind growth must accelerate even further to reach the generation levels demonstrated in the SDS. Cost reductions, technology improvements and rapid deployment achieved in Europe need to be extended to other regions.

Offshore wind power generation

Historical development, forecast, and SDS

	Historical	Forecast	SDS
2000	0.1	0.0	0.0
2001	0.2	0.0	0.0
2002	0.4	0.0	0.0
2003	1.3	0.0	0.0
2004	2.0	0.0	0.0
2005	2.5	0.0	0.0
2006	3.1	0.0	0.0
2007	4.1	0.0	0.0
2008	5.4	0.0	0.0
2009	5.0	0.0	0.0
2010	7.7	0.0	0.0
2011	11.7	0.0	0.0
2012	14.8	0.0	0.0
2013	20.7	0.0	0.0
2014	24.6	0.0	0.0
2015	38.9	0.0	0.0
2016	41.5	0.0	0.0
2017	54.6	0.0	0.0
2018	65.8	0.0	0.0
2019	0.0	81.4	0.0
2020	0.0	98.4	0.0
2021	0.0	115.7	0.0
2022	0.0	140.7	0.0
2023	0.0	173.4	0.0
2025	0.0	0.0	307.5
2030	0.0	0.0	606.3
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Hydropower

Hydropower generation is estimated to have increased by over 3% in 2018 due to continued recovery from drought in Latin America as well as strong capacity expansion and good water availability in China. This was a much larger increase than the 1.5% increase in 2017. However, capacity additions declined for the fifth consecutive year, putting this technology off track with the SDS, which requires continuous growth in new-build capacity to maintain an average generation increase of 2.5% per year through 2030.

Hydropower generation

Historical development, forecast, and SDS

	Historical	Forecast	SDS
2000	2618.3		
2001	2561.1		
2002	2628.8		
2003	2641.6		
2004	2812.1		
2005	2934.8		
2006	3044.6		
2007	3083.3		
2008	3213.2		
2009	3267.5		
2010	3445.3		
2011	3514.0		
2012	3677.8		
2013	3809.0		
2014	3905.9		
2015	3904.7		
2016	4061.5		
2017	4109.4		
2018	4243.5		
2019		4274.2	
2020		4364.4	
2021		4440.0	
2022		4505.4	
2023		4576.4	
2025			5011.7
2030			5722.4
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Bioenergy power generation

In 2018, bioenergy electricity generation increased by over 8%, maintaining average growth rates since 2011 and exceeding the 6% annual rate needed through 2030 to reach the SDS level. As recent positive policy and market developments in emerging economies indicate an optimistic outlook for bioenergy, its tracking status was upgraded in 2018 from ‘more efforts needed’ to ‘on track’.

Bioenergy power generation

Historical development, forecast, and SDS

	Historical	Forecast	SDS
2000	132.1		
2001	132.7		
2002	146.0		
2003	157.0		
2004	172.1		
2005	192.2		
2006	206.1		
2007	225.5		
2008	244.2		
2009	266.0		
2010	310.4		
2011	328.2		
2012	356.4		
2013	389.2		
2014	423.8		
2015	451.3		
2016	498.5		
2017	531.4		
2018	592.2		
2019		637.4	
2020		676.5	
2021		708.3	
2022		737.3	
2023		764.1	
2025			921.8
2030			1168.2
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Concentrating solar power (CSP)

Concentrating solar power (CSP) generation increased by an estimated 8% in 2018. Nevertheless, CSP is not on track with the SDS, which requires annual average growth of almost 26% through 2030. Policy design that emphasises CSP plant storage value will be key to attract additional investment.

Concentrating solar power (CSP) generation

Historical development, forecast, and targets

	Historical	Forecast	SDS
2000	0.5		
2001	0.6		
2002	0.6		
2003	0.5		
2004	0.6		
2005	0.6		
2006	0.6		
2007	0.7		
2008	0.9		
2009	0.9		
2010	1.6		
2011	2.9		
2012	4.7		
2013	5.9		
2014	8.4		
2015	9.6		
2016	10.5		
2017	11.0		
2018	11.9		
2019		18.0	
2020		20.7	
2021		23.3	
2022		28.3	
2023		30.7	
2025			53.8
2030			183.8
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Geothermal

Geothermal electricity generation increased by an estimated 6% in 2018, much more than the average growth of the five previous years. Nevertheless, the technology is still not on track to reach the SDS level, which would require a 10% annual increase in generation over 2018‑30. Policies tackling challenges associated with pre-development risks are needed to increase the deployment of geothermal for power.

Geothermal generation

Historical development, forecast, and SDS

	Historical	Forecast	SDS
2000	52.0		
2001	51.6		
2002	52.3		
2003	54.1		
2004	56.5		
2005	58.3		
2006	59.6		
2007	62.3		
2008	64.9		
2009	67.0		
2010	68.1		
2011	69.2		
2012	70.2		
2013	71.6		
2014	77.4		
2015	80.5		
2016	81.7		
2017	87.5		
2018	92.7		
2019		93.0	
2020		97.1	
2021		101.5	
2022		106.1	
2023		110.6	
2025			162.2
2030			282.0
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Ocean power

Electricity generation from marine technologies increased an estimated 3% in 2018. The technology is not on track with the SDS, which requires a much higher annual growth rate of 24% through 2030. Policies promoting R&D are needed to achieve further cost reductions and large-scale development.

Ocean power generation

Historical development, forecast, and SDS

	Historical	Forecast	SDS
2000	0.5		
2001	0.5		
2002	0.5		
2003	0.5		
2004	0.5		
2005	0.5		
2006	0.5		
2007	0.5		
2008	0.5		
2009	0.5		
2010	0.5		
2011	0.5		
2012	0.5		
2013	0.9		
2014	1.0		
2015	1.0		
2016	1.0		
2017	1.1		
2018	1.1		
2019		1.1	
2020		1.2	
2021		1.2	
2022		1.2	
2023		1.2	
2025			4.0
2030			15.0
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