Solar and Wind Installations Outshine Fossil Fuel-Based Installations in 2019_ Report

As the world embraces renewable energies to combat the disastrous effects of climate change, solar and wind power installations continue to surge despite challenges.

BloombergNEF’s (BNEF) Power Transition Trends 2020 reported that new solar and wind installations made up 67% of new power capacity added globally in 2019. In contrast, additions from fossil fuels were down to 25% last year.

Incidentally, solar takes precedence over the wind as photovoltaic technology is the world’s leading power generation technology, with a record 118 GW installed, topping all other forms of energy sources.

The meteoric rise of solar can be attributed to a steep decline in the cost of solar components used in installations like modules.

The report said that 45% of power capacity added across the world was solar, with one-third of all countries making it their priority. In all, 81 countries added at least 1 MW of solar installations in 2019. Solar also accounted for nearly half of all new power generation capacity added across the globe in 2019.

In 2010, solar had only 47.3 GW of installations worldwide; however, by the end of 2019, 651 GW have been installed. On a generation basis, solar’s contributions are considerably smaller due to its lower capacity factors compared to fossil fuels.

In 2010, only 0.16% of the power generated came from solar; and in 2019, it rose to 2.7% worldwide. Solar installations even upended wind installation in 2019, which stood at 644 GW and became the fourth largest source of power world over.

Cumulative Power Capacity Mix Globally- 2019

The report anticipates the solar market to grow substantially with 140-178 GW of capacity installed in 2022.

According to the BNEF report, more solar and wind capacity is now online across the world than the total capacity (including both clean and conventional sources) in the U.S. alone.

The unprecedented surge made by renewable energies is evident as wind and solar accounted for over two-thirds of the 265 GW of power capacity installed worldwide (in 2010, it was less than a quarter). After adding hydro to the mix, the trio makes up three-fourths of the total capacity installed across the world.

In the early 2010s, only developed nations embraced solar and wind. However, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations have been installing more since 2011. Among non-OECD countries, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Turkey have accounted for the majority of installations since 2016.

The BNEF report estimated that carbon emissions for the power sector world over dropped by 1.5% in 2018-2019. The U.S. and the European Union witnessed a decline in emissions (14% and 6% emissions respectively), which offset the rising emissions by China (37% in 2019).

Annual Installed Capacity


Across the world, 39 GW of new coal capacity was installed in 2019, significantly higher than 19 GW of installed capacity in 2018.

Yet, there was a 3% reduction in coal-generation worldwide as coal power plants ran less frequently). The dip was recorded for the first time since 2014-2015. Though there are more coal plants in the present day than there were ten years ago, these plants are running less frequently.

Although the average utilization rate of coal plants dropped from 57% in 2010 to 50% in 2019, yet 9,200 TW of power was generated from coal in 2019, 17% higher than in 2010.

Global coal capacity surged by 32% to reach 2.1 TW. Although developed nations retired 113 GW of coal power in 2019, 619 GW of new coal projects was installed in the same period by developing countries.

Renewable energy’s share (including large hydro projects) inched up to 36.3% during the second quarter of 2020, up about 0.1% from the previous quarter. Coal-based power continued to hold the largest share of any power source in the country (53.3%), with about 198.8 GW of installations.

According to Mercom India Solar Project Tracker, cumulative solar installations in India stood at approximately 37 GW.

India installed 136 MW of wind power projects in Q2 2020, an 82% decline in installations compared to 743 MW in the same period last year, and a 28% fall from the previous quarter’s 187 MW. Gujarat and Karnataka were the only states that added wind power capacity during the quarter.

Image credit: By Abengoa Solar – Abengoa Solar, CC BY 1.0