Methodological Notes

This 2017 report is the 12th edition of the Renewables Global Status Report (GSR), which has been produced annually since 2005 (with the exception of 2008). Readers are directed to the previous GSR editions for historical details.

Most 2016 data i for national and global capacity, output, growth and investment portrayed in this report are preliminary. Where necessary, information and data that are conflicting, partial or older are reconciled by using reasoned expert judgment. Endnotes provide additional details, including references, supporting information and assumptions where relevant.

Each edition draws from thousands of published and unpublished references, including: official government sources; reports from international organisations and industry associations; input from the GSR community via hundreds of questionnaires submitted by country, regional and technology contributors as well as feedback from several rounds of formal and informal reviews; additional personal communications with scores of international experts; and a variety of electronic newsletters, news media and other sources.

Much of the data found in the GSR is built from the ground up by the authors with the aid of these resources. This often involves extrapolation of older data, based on recent changes in key countries within a sector or based on recent growth rates and global trends. Other data, often very specific and narrow in scope, come more-or-less prepared from third parties. The GSR attempts to synthesise these data points into a collective whole for the focus year.

The GSR endeavours to provide the best data available in each successive edition; as such, data should not be compared with previous versions of this report to ascertain year-by-year changes.

Note on Accounting and Reporting

A number of issues arise when counting renewable energy capacities and energy output. Some of these are discussed below:

1. Capacity versus Energy Data

The GSR aims to give accurate estimates of capacity additions and totals, as well as of electricity, heat and transport fuel production in the past year. These measures are subject to some uncertainty, which varies by technology. The chapter on Market and Industry Trends includes estimates for energy produced where possible, but it focuses mainly on power or heat capacity data. This is because capacity data generally can be estimated with a greater degree of confidence than generation data. Official heat and electricity generation data often are not available within the production time frame of the GSR.

2. Constructed Capacity versus Connected Capacity and Operational Capacity

Over the past few years, the solar PV and wind power markets have seen increasing amounts of capacity that was connected to the electricity grid but not yet deemed officially operational, or constructed capacity that was not connected to the grid by year’s end. This phenomenon has been particularly evident for wind power installations in China (2009-2016). Starting with the 2012 edition, the GSR has aimed to count only capacity additions that were grid-connected or that otherwise went into service (e.g., capacity intended for off-grid use) during the previous calendar (focus) year. However, there may be exceptions related to data availability and other factors (as with China, for example). Known deviations to this approach are outlined in the text or endnotes for the technology sections.

3. Renewable Energy Shares of Total Final Energy Consumption (TFEC)

Renewable energy shares of TFEC are estimated by drawing on various data sources. TFEC in the target year is estimated by applying the one-year growth rate in primary energy demand (from the latest available version of BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy) to the TFEC in the previous year (from the IEA’s World Energy Statistics and Balances). Renewable energy consumption in the target year is based on various sources and is not necessarily internally consistent with estimates of the same in the IEA’s statistics for the preceding year (which constitute the basis for estimating TFEC in the target year). Apportioning of renewable heat and electricity output for estimating total renewable energy consumption is not based on the share of renewables in gross production. Instead, the allocation of final consumption of electricity to renewables assumes electricity transmission losses and industry’s own use of electricity to amount to 7% of gross generation.

See relevant endnotes for more-detailed information regarding sources and methodologies.

4. Other General Notes on Capacity Data

Data on capacity retirements and replacements (re-powering) are incomplete for many technologies, although data on several technologies do attempt to account for these directly. It is not uncommon for reported new capacity installations to exceed the implied net increase in cumulative capacity; in some instances, this is explained by revisions to data on installed capacity, while in others it is due to capacity retirements and replacements.

5. Bio-power Data

Given existing complexities and constraints ( see Figure 6 in GSR 2015, and Sidebar 2 in GSR 2012), the GSR strives to provide the best and latest available data regarding biomass energy developments. The reporting of biomass-fired combined heat and power (CHP) systems varies among countries; this adds to the challenges experienced when assessing total heat and electricity capacities and total bioenergy outputs. Wherever possible, the bio-power data presented include capacity and generation from both electricity-only and CHP systems using solid biomass, landfill gas, biogas and liquid biofuels.

6. Hydropower Data and Treatment of Pumped Storage

Starting with the 2012 edition, the GSR has made an effort to report hydropower generating capacity without including pure pumped storage capacity (the capacity used solely for shifting water between reservoirs for storage purposes). The distinction is made because pumped storage is not an energy source but rather a means of energy storage. It involves conversion losses and potentially is fed by all forms of electricity, renewable and nonrenewable.

Some conventional hydropower facilities do have pumping capability that is not separate from, or additional to, their normal generating capability. These facilities are referred to as “mixed” plants and are included, to the extent possible, with conventional hydropower data. It is the aim of the GSR to distinguish and separate only the pure (or incremental) pumped storage component.

Where the GSR presents data for renewable power capacity not including hydropower, the distinction is made because hydropower remains the largest single component by far of renewable power capacity, and thus can mask developments in other renewable energy technologies if included. Investments and jobs data separate out large-scale hydropower statistics where original sources use different methodologies for tracking or estimating values. Footnotes and endnotes provide additional details.

7. Solar PV Capacity Data

The capacity of a solar PV panel is rated according to direct current (DC) output, which is most cases must be converted by inverters to alternating current (AC) to be compatible with end-use electricity supply. No single equation is possible for calculating solar PV data in AC because conversion depends on many factors, including the inverters used, shading, dust build-up, line losses and temperature effects on conversion efficiency. Residential systems typically have a ratio of 1:1, whereas utility-scale projects have ratios of as high as 1.4:1, with commercial installations in between.

This report attempts to report all solar PV capacity data on the basis of DC output (where data are provided in AC, this is specified) for consistency across countries. Some countries (e.g., Canada, Chile, Japan since 2012, and Spain) report official capacity data on the basis of output in alternating current (AC); these capacity data were converted to direct current (DC) output by data providers (see relevant endnotes) for the sake of consistency. Global capacity totals in this report include solar PV data in DC; as with all statistics in this report, they should be considered as indicative of global capacity and trends rather than as exact statisticsii.

8. Solar Thermal Heat Data

Starting with GSR 2014, the GSR includes all solar thermal collectors that use water as the heat transfer medium (or heat carrier) in global capacity data and ranking of top countries. Previous GSRs focused primarily on glazed water collectors (both flat plate and evacuated tube); the GSR now also includes unglazed water collectors, which are used predominantly for swimming pool heating. Data for solar air collectors (solar thermal collectors that use air as the heat carrier) and concentrating collectors mainly used for industrial applications (worldwide) or cooking (India) are far more uncertain, and these collector types play a minor role in the market overall. Solar thermal air collectors are included where specified.

9. Other

Editorial content of this report closed by 15 May 2017 for technology data, and by 1 May 2017 or earlier for other content. The Policy Landscape chapter covers policy developments through the end of 2016.

Growth rates in the GSR are calculated as compound annual growth rates (CAGR) rather than as an average of annual growth rates.

All exchange rates in this report are as of 31 December 2016 and are calculated using the OANDA currency converter (http://

Corporate domicile, where noted, is determined by the location of headquarters.

i For information on renewable energy data and related challenges, see Sidebar 4 in GSR 2015 and Sidebar 1 in GSR 2014.i

ii Based in part on information drawn from International Energy Agency Photovoltaic Systems Programme (IEA PVPS), Trends in Photovoltaic Applications, 2016: Survey Report of Selected IEA Countries Between 1992 and 2015 (Paris: 2016), p. 7; from Gaëtan Masson, Becquerel Institute and IEA PVPS, personal communication with REN21, May 2017; and from Dave Renné, International Solar Energy Society, personal communication with REN21, March 2017.ii