1. Global Overview
Renewable energy technologies increase their hold across developing and emerging economies throughout the year
The year 2016 saw several developments and ongoing trends that all have a bearing on renewable energy, including the continuation of comparatively low global fossil fuel prices; dramatic price declines of several renewable energy technologies; and a continued increase in attention to energy storage.
For the third consecutive year, global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry were nearly flat in 2016, due largely to declining coal use worldwide but also due to improvements in energy efficiency and to increasing use of renewable energy.
As of 2015, renewable energy provided an estimated 19.3% of global final energy consumption, and growth in capacity and production continued in 2016. The power sector experienced the greatest increases in renewable energy capacity in 2016, whereas the growth of renewables in the heating and cooling and transport sectors was comparatively slow.
Most new renewable energy capacity is installed in developing countries, and largely in China, the single largest developer of renewable power and heat over the past eight years. In 2016, renewable energy spread to a growing number of developing and emerging economies, some of which have become important markets.
For the more than 1 billion people without access to electricity, distributed renewable energy projects, especially those in rural areas far from the centralised grid, offer important and often cost-effective options to provide such access.
The renewable energy sector employed 9.8 million people in 2016, an increase of 1.1% over 2015. By technology, solar PV and biofuels provided the largest numbers of jobs. Employment shifted further towards Asia, which accounted for 62% of all renewable energy jobs (not including large-scale hydropower), led by China.
The development of community renewable energy projects continued in 2016, but the pace of growth in some countries is in decline. In a new trend, such projects have begun to expand into energy retailing (supply), storage and demand-side management.
Government policy at all levels remained important for renewable energy developments. The 2015 Paris Agreement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) formally entered into force at the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22) in November 2016. However, renewable energy markets were affected only indirectly during the year. A number of governments implemented new renewable energy targets, and several cities established new commitments to 100% renewable energy. Despite the importance of the heat and transport sectors to energy demand and global emissions, policy makers focused predominantly on the power sector.
Record numbers reached for newly installed renewable power generating capacity
Renewable power generating capacity saw its largest annual increase ever in 2016, with an estimated 161 gigawatts (GW) of capacity added. Total global capacity was up nearly 9% compared to 2015, to almost 2,017 GW at year’s end. The world continued to add more renewable power capacity annually than it added (net) capacity from all fossil fuels combined. In 2016, renewables accounted for an estimated nearly 62% of net additions to global power generating capacity.
Solar PV saw record additions and, for the first time, accounted for more additional capacity, net of decommissioning, than did any other power generating technology. Solar PV represented about 47% of newly installed renewable power capacity in 2016, and wind and hydropower accounted for most of the remainder, contributing 34% and 15.5%, respectively.
The ongoing growth and geographical expansion of renewable power capacity was driven by the continued decline in prices for renewable energy technologies; by rising power demand in some countries; and by targeted renewable energy support mechanisms. Some well-established renewable energy technologies, such as hydropower and geothermal energy, have long since become cost-competitive with fossil fuels where resources are plentiful. Solar PV and wind power are now joining in, challenging fossil fuels in a growing number of locations.
Plants owned by utilities or large investors dominated renewable electricity production in 2016, and the scale of renewable energy plants continued to grow. Major corporations and institutions around the world continued to make large commitments to purchase renewable electricity.
Heating and Cooling
Modest improvements achieved, but renewable heating and cooling still constrained by low fossil fuel prices and lack of policy support
Modern renewable energy supplies approximately 9% of total global heat demand. In 2016, the vast majority of renewable heat continued to be supplied by biomass, with smaller contributions from solar thermal and geothermal energy. While additional capacities of modern bio-heat and solar thermal were installed in 2016, growth in both markets has slowed.
District heating systems are incorporating solar thermal energy for larger installations. Interest is expanding in the use of district heating as a way to provide flexibility to power systems, by storing energy from the electric power grid as heat, which reflects a more general increased interest in the electrification of the heating sector.
Continued improvements of materials, systems and industrial processes in the heating and cooling sector facilitated increases in renewable energy use. In general, however, deployment of renewable technologies in this market continued to be constrained by a number of factors including comparatively low fossil fuel prices and a relative lack of policy support.
Liquid biofuels remain the primary renewable energy in the transport sector, but electrification continues to expand
Liquid biofuels continued to represent the vast majority of the renewable energy contribution to the transport sector. In 2016, they provided around 4% of world road transport fuels, which account for the majority of transport energy use.
Biogas use in transport grew substantially in the United States and continued to gain shares of the transport fuel mix in Europe. Although other regions have established natural gas infrastructure into which biogas could be incorporated, deployment has remained limited.
Electrification of the transport sector expanded during the year. Direct links between renewable energy and electric vehicles (EVs) were few, but the share of renewables in electrified transport is rising as the share of renewables in grid power increases. Further electrification of the transport sector has the potential to create a new market for renewable energy and to facilitate the integration of variable renewable energy.
Policy support for renewable energy in the transport sector lags behind such support in the power sector. While there was increased attention to the decarbonisation of transport at the international level in 2016, direct links with renewable energy were limited in this arena as well.
RENEWABLE ENERGY INDICATORS 2016
New investment (annual) in renewable power and fuels1
Renewable power capacity (total, not including hydro)
Renewable power capacity (total, including hydro)
Bio-power generation (annual)
Geothermal power capacity
Solar PV capacity
Concentrating solar thermal power capacity
Wind power capacity
Solar hot water capacity3
Ethanol production (annual)
Biodiesel production (annual)
Countries with policy targets
States/provinces/countries with feed-in policies
States/provinces/countries with RPS/quota policies
Countries with tendering/public competitive bidding4
Countries with heat obligation/mandate
States/provinces/countries with biofuel mandates5
1Investment data are from Bloomberg New Energy Finance and include all biomass, geothermal and wind power projects of more than 1 MW; all hydro projects of between 1 and 50 MW; all solar power projects, with those less than 1 MW estimated separately; all ocean energy projects; and all biofuel projects with an annual production capacity of 1 million litres or more.
2The GSR 2016 reported a global total of 1,064 GW of hydropower capacity at end-2015. The value of 1,071 GW shown here reflects the difference between end-2016 capacity (1,096 GW) and new installations in 2016 (25 GW). Differences are explained in part by uncertainty regarding capacity retirements and plant repowering each year. Note also that the GSR strives to exclude pure pumped storage capacity from hydropower capacity data.
3Solar hot water capacity data include water collectors only. The number for 2016 is a preliminary estimate.
4Data for tendering/public competitive bidding reflect all countries that have held tenders at any time up through the year of focus.
5Biofuel policies include policies listed both under the biofuels obligation/mandate column in Table 3 (Renewable Energy Support Policies) and in Reference Table R25 (National and State/Provincial Biofuel Blend Mandates).
Note: All values are rounded to whole numbers except for numbers <15, biofuels and investment, which are rounded to one decimal point.
2. Market and Industry Trends
Despite challenges, bioenergy production increases
Despite a number of challenges, in particular from low oil prices and policy uncertainty in some markets, bioenergy production continued to increase in 2016. Bioenergy development and deployment activities continued spreading into new regions and countries, noticeably in India, and some promising initial developments also were seen in Africa.
Bio-heat production grew slowly in 2016, although the use of bioenergy in industry has stabilised in recent years. Bio-power production has increased more quickly – by some 6% in 2016 – with rapid growth in the European Union (EU) and in Asia, where generation rose particularly sharply in the Republic of Korea.
Global ethanol production was stable, with record levels in the United States and sharp increases in China and India. The year also saw new initiatives in Africa, notably in Nigeria and South Africa. Global production of biodiesel recovered after a fall in 2015, with particularly strong growth in Indonesia and Argentina. Production of hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) increased 20% in 2016. Biomethane use in transport also grew sharply, due largely to growth in the United States, stimulated by the Renewable Fuel Standard.
The year saw continuing progress in the commercialisation and development of advanced biofuels, with expansion in the capacity and production of fuels by both thermal and biological routes and the announcement of new plants in China and India, widening the geographical range of such facilities.
Geothermal Power and Heat
Geothermal industry sees measured progress in some key markets
The geothermal industry continued to face challenges in 2016, burdened by the inherent high risk of geothermal exploration and project development, the associated lack of risk mitigation, and the constraints of financing and competitive disadvantage relative to low-cost natural gas. Yet the industry made progress with new project developments in key markets, and industry leaders cemented partnerships to pursue new opportunities.
Indonesia and Turkey each added about 200 megawatts (MW) of capacity, representing the bulk of additions in 2016 for a total of 13.5 GW. Globally, geothermal power produced an estimated 78 terawatt-hours (TWh) during the year. Geothermal direct use amounted to an estimated 286 petajoules (PJ) in 2015 (79 TWh). Expansion of geothermal direct use continued in 2016, including in several district heating systems in Europe.
Global generation of hydropower rises, with China retaining the global lead; climate risk remains a pressing concern for the industry
At least 25 GW of new hydropower capacity (excluding pumped storage) was commissioned in 2016, increasing global capacity to approximately 1,096 GW. Drought conditions improved notably in the Americas and Asia; it is estimated that global generation rose by more than 3% relative to 2015, to about 4,100 TWh. China’s domestic market continued to contract, but the country retained the global lead with 8.9 GW added. Significant capacity also was added in Brazil, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Peru, Turkey, Lao PDR, Malaysia and India.
Modernisation and retrofitting of existing facilities continues to be a significant part of industry operations, including the implementation of advanced control technologies and data analytics for digitally enhanced power generation. Climate risk in the context of project financing and operations remains a pressing concern for the industry, and efforts were made to improve understanding of the climate impacts of hydropower projects as well as of their climate mitigation benefits and resilience.
Ocean energy companies continue to advance and deploy their technologies
For the ocean energy industry, the year was similar to 2015, with a growing number of companies around the world advancing their technologies and deploying new and improved devices. However, commercial success for ocean energy technologies remained in check due to perennial challenges. These include financing obstacles in an industry characterised by relatively high risk and high upfront costs and by the need for improved planning, consenting and licensing procedures. Global ocean energy capacity, mostly tidal power generation, was about 536 MW by the end of 2016.
Solar Photovoltaics (PV)
Solar PV leads the way in power generating capacity and is considered a cost-competitive source of new generation in many emerging markets across the world
Solar PV was the world’s leading source of additional (net of decommissioning) power generating capacity in 2016. The annual market increased nearly 50% to at least 75 GWdc – equivalent to more than 31,000 solar panels installed every hour – raising the global total to at least 303 GWdc. The top five countries, led by China, accounted for 85% of additions. Yet emerging markets on all continents are contributing significantly to global growth, and many see solar PV as a cost-competitive source for increasing electricity production and for providing energy access. Nevertheless, markets in most locations continue to be driven largely by government policies.
Despite tremendous demand growth, the year brought unprecedented price reductions, particularly for modules. Downwards pressure on prices has challenged manufacturers. But declining capital expenditures and improving capacity factors are helping to make solar PV increasingly competitive with traditional power sources, and new record low bids were set in tenders in 2016. Falling prices and rising demand lured new players into the industry, including electric utilities and oil and gas companies.
At least 17 countries had enough solar PV capacity by year’s end to meet 2% or more of their electricity demand, and several countries met far higher shares during 2016, including Honduras (9.8%), Italy (7.3%), Greece (7.2%) and Germany (6.4%).
Concentrating Solar Thermal Power (CSP)
Integration of thermal energy storage into CSP plants is enabling the provision of dispatchable power
In 2016, 110 MW of concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) capacity came online, bringing global capacity to more than 4.8 GW by year’s end. This was the lowest annual growth rate in total global capacity in 10 years, at just over 2%. Even so, CSP remains on a strong growth trajectory, with as much as 900 MW expected to enter operation during the course of 2017.
For the second year in a row, all new facilities that came online incorporated thermal energy storage (TES), which is now seen as central to the value that CSP technology can add by providing dispatchable power to grids with high penetrations of variable renewables. Parabolic trough and tower technologies continued to dominate the market.
CSP furthered its push into developing countries that have high direct normal irradiance (DNI) levels and specific strategic and/or economic alignment with the benefits of CSP technology. In this respect, CSP is receiving increased policy support in countries with limited oil and gas reserves, constrained power networks, a need for energy storage, or strong industrialisation and job creation agendas. Research and development – under way in Australia, Europe, the United States and elsewhere – continued to focus on improvements in TES.
Solar Thermal Heating and Cooling
Capacity grows worldwide and across different sectors, despite market challenges
Approximately 36.7 gigawatts-thermal (GWth) of new solar thermal capacity was commissioned in 2016, increasing total global capacity by 5% to approximately 456 GWth. China accounted for about 75% of global additions, followed by Turkey, Brazil, India and the United States. Moreover, globalisation of solar thermal heating and cooling technologies continued with sales picking up in several new emerging markets, including Argentina, the Middle East and parts of Eastern and Central Africa.
The year 2016 was challenging in the larger, established markets due to a number of factors, including low oil and gas prices; declining demand from homeowners, long the core market segment for the solar thermal industry; and reduced interest in solar thermal technology among installers. Many suppliers of these systems responded by successfully diversifying their portfolios for commercial clients.
Significant growth was registered in several non-residential segments. In Denmark, the installed area of new solar district heating almost doubled relative to 2015, increasing interest in other European countries, especially Germany, which saw intensive project development during 2016. Air collector systems for drying agricultural products had a strong year in Germany and Austria. The use of solar thermal technologies in industry expanded quickly in Mexico and India in particular. Solar cooling systems are used increasingly in sun-rich countries to supply cooling in commercial and public buildings in conjunction with year-round solar hot water.
Onshore wind power proves competitive; offshore wind power in Europe sees record-low bid prices
Almost 55 GW of wind power capacity was added in 2016, bringing the global total to nearly 487 GW. China again led for new installations, despite a significant decline in the country’s annual market. Asia represented about half of added capacity, with Europe and North America accounting for most of the rest, but new markets continued to open around the world. By year’s end, more than 90 countries had seen commercial activity. At least 24 countries met 5% or more of their annual electricity demand with wind power in 2016, and at least 13 met more than 10%.
The year 2016 was good for top turbine manufacturers, and technology innovation continued in the face of competition from low-cost natural gas and, increasingly, from solar PV. Challenges to the industry included curtailment, particularly in China, and policy uncertainty.
Onshore wind power is the most cost-effective option for new grid-based power in an increasing number of markets. Offshore, about 2.2 GW of capacity was connected to grids, including the first commercial projects in the Republic of Korea and the United States, and substantial new capacity in Germany, the Netherlands and China. In Europe, offshore wind power saw record low bids for tenders in Denmark and the Netherlands, bringing the region’s industry closer to its goal to produce offshore wind power more cheaply than coal by 2025.
3. Distributed Renewable Energy for Energy Access
DRE deployment expands in the developing world, although financing remains limited
Approximately 1.2 billion people (about 16% of the global population) live without electricity, and about 2.7 billion people (38% of the global population) are without clean cooking facilities. The vast majority of people without access to both electricity and clean cooking are in sub-Saharan Africa and in the Oceania region, and most of them live in rural regions.
New business models and technologies are accelerating access to distributed renewable energy (DRE) systems in the developing world. The old paradigm of energy access through grid extension alone is becoming obsolete as bottom-up customer demand is motivating hundreds of millions of households to generate their own modern energy to provide services through off-grid units or community-scale mini-grids. Mobile technology, Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) business models, the availability of microloans, the viability of micro-grids and falling technology prices continue to support DRE deployment worldwide. The most popular business models within the DRE sector in 2016 were distributed energy service companies (DESCOs) for mini/micro/pico-grids, the PAYG model for stand-alone systems, and microfinance and microcredit.
Perhaps the biggest barrier to universal access to DRE systems is lack of investment. Funding from multilateral organisations and bilateral donors continued to be the main source of financing for energy access investments, although DRE investment accounts for only a fraction of their energy access investment portfolios.
In 2016, many countries implemented policy measures aiming to support DRE deployment, including dedicated electrification targets, fiscal incentives, regulations, auctions and exemptions on value-added tax (VAT) and import duties. Quality Assurance (QA) frameworks also were adopted, particularly for off-grid solar products, to reduce the sale of low-quality products on the market.
4. Investment Flows
Investment declines, but installation of renewable power capacity worldwide hits a record high
Global new investment in renewable power and fuels (not including hydropower projects larger than 50 MW) was USD 241.6 billion in 2016i. Although this represents a decrease of 23% compared to 2015, the decline accompanied a record installation of renewable power capacity worldwide. Investment in renewable power and fuels has exceeded USD 200 billion per year for the past seven years. Including investments in hydropower projects larger than 50 MW, total new investment in renewable power and fuels was at least USD 264.8 billion in 2016.
For the fifth consecutive year, investment in new renewable power capacity (including all hydropower) was roughly double that in fossil fuel generating capacity. Investment in renewables continued to focus on solar power, followed closely by wind power, although investment in both sectors was down relative to 2015. Asset finance of utility-scaleii projects, such as wind farms and solar parks, dominated investment during the year, at USD 187.1 billion. Small-scale solar PV installations (less than 1 MW) accounted for USD 39.8 billion worldwide, representing a decline of 28%.
Developing and emerging economies overtook developed countries in renewable energy investment for the first time in 2015, but developed countries retook the lead in 2016. Investment in developing and emerging countries dropped by 30% to USD 116.6 billion, while that in developed countries fell 14% to USD 125 billion.
Trends in renewable energy investment varied by region in 2016, with investment up in Europe and Australia; down in China, the United States, the Middle East, Africa, Asia-Oceania (except Australia) and Latin America; and stable in India. China accounted for 32% of all financings of renewable energy, followed by Europe (25%), the United States (19%) and Asia-Oceania (excluding China and India; 11%), and the Americas (excluding Brazil and the United States), Brazil, and the Middle East and Africa accounted for 3% each.
There were two main reasons for the decline in investment in renewable energy during 2016. One was the slowdown in investments in Japan, China and some other emerging countries. The other was the significant cost reductions in solar PV and in onshore and offshore wind power, which also improved the cost-competitiveness of those technologies. The result was that in 2016 investors were able to acquire more renewable energy capacity for less money.
iInvestment-related data do not include hydropower projects larger than 50 MW, except where specified.i
ii“Utility-scale” refers to wind farms, solar parks and other renewable power installations of 1 MW or more in size, and to biofuel production facilities with capacity exceeding 1 million litres.ii
TOP FIVE COUNTRIES Annual Investment / Net Capacity Additions / Production in 2016
Investment in renewable power and fuels (not including hydro > 50 MW)
Investment in renewable power
Geothermal power capacity
Solar PV capacity
Concentrating solar thermal power
Wind power capacity
Solar water heating capacity
Fuel ethanol production
TOP FIVE COUNTRIES Total Capacity or Generation as of End-2016
Renewable power (incl. hydro)
Renewable power (not incl. hydro)
Renewable power capacity per capita
Geothermal power capacity
Solar PV capacity
Solar PV capacity per capita
Wind power capacity
Wind power capacity per capita
Solar water heating collector capacity5
Solar water heating collector
Geothermal heat capacity6
Geothermal heat capacity per capita 6
1Countries considered include only those covered by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF); GDP (at purchasers’ prices) data for 2015 from World Bank. BNEF data include the following: all biomass, geothermal and wind power projects of more than 1 MW; all hydropower projects of between 1 and 50 MW; all solar power projects, with those less than 1 MW (small-scale capacity) estimated separately; all ocean energy projects; and all biofuel projects with an annual production capacity of 1 million litres or more. Small-scale capacity data used to help calculate investment per unit of GDP cover only those countries investing USD 200 million or more.
2Only two countries brought CSP plants online in 2016, which is why no countries are listed in places 3, 4 and 5.
3Per capita renewable power capacity (not including hydropower) ranking based on data gathered from various sources for more than 70 countries and on 2015 population data from World Bank.
4Country rankings for hydropower capacity and generation differ because some countries rely on hydropower for baseload supply whereas others use it more to follow the electric load and to match peaks in demand.
5Solar water heating collector rankings for total capacity and per capita are for year-end 2015 and are based on capacity of water (glazed and unglazed) collectors only. Data from International Energy Agency Solar Heating and Cooling Programme. Total capacity rankings are estimated to remain unchanged for year-end 2016.
6Not including heat pumps.
Note: Most rankings are based on absolute amounts of investment, power generation capacity or output, or biofuels production; if done on a basis of per capita, national GDP or other, the rankings would be different for many categories (as seen with per capita rankings for renewable power not including hydropower, solar PV, wind power, solar water collector and geothermal heat capacity).
5. Policy Landscape
New or revised renewable energy targets have been adopted in all regions; policy makers continue to implement a range of support policies
As of 2016, nearly all countries supported renewable energy development and deployment directly through some mix of policies enacted at the national, sub-national and local levels. Policy makers continued to implement a range of renewable energy targets and direct support policies during the year to attract investment, drive deployment, foster innovation, encourage greater flexibility in energy infrastructure and support the development of enabling technologies such as energy storage.
New or revised targets were adopted in all regions of the globe in 2016. Notably, at COP22 leaders of 48 developing nations committed to work towards achieving 100% renewable energy in their respective nations. Throughout the year, 117 countries submitted their first Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement, and 55 of these countries featured renewable energy targets.
A broad range of policies – including feed-in tariffs (FITs), tendering, net metering and fiscal incentives – provided support aimed at economy-wide economic development, environmental protection and national security. Technology advances, falling costs and rising penetration of renewables in many countries also have continued to require that policies evolve to stimulate both deployment and integration as effectively as possible. As in past years, policy support was focused mostly on the power sector, whereas support for renewable technologies in the heating and cooling and transport sectors has developed at a slower pace.
Policies for Electricity
The power sector continues to be the primary focus of renewable energy policy support
FITs remained the most widely utilised form of regulatory support to the renewable power sector. However, tenders (competitive bidding or auctions) for renewable energy are the most rapidly expanding form of support for renewable energy project deployment and are becoming the preferred policy tool for supporting deployment of large-scale projects. During 2016, several countries – including Malawi and Zambia – held their first renewable energy tenders, and China tendered 5.5 GW of capacity. Poland, Greece and Slovenia all adopted hybrid policy schemes that support small-scale projects through FITs and large projects through tenders. Decision makers in many countries continued to advance policies to facilitate integration of variable renewable generation into national energy systems.
Policies for Heating and Cooling
Renewable heating and cooling technologies see support through mandates and incentives
Policy makers continued to focus on financial incentives in the form of grants, loans or tax incentives to increase deployment of renewable heating and cooling technologies. In addition, some enacted policies designed to advance technological development. Several countries, including Bulgaria, Chile, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, the Slovak Republic and the United States enacted new financial support mechanisms or revised existing ones; in South Africa, bidding closed for the country’s long-delayed solar water heater supply, delivery and warehousing tender. Despite these positive developments, the renewable heating and cooling sector faced policy uncertainty in several countries.
Renewable Energy Transport Policies
Biofuels for road transport attract continued attention from policy makers, while aviation and maritime sectors make slow progress
Biofuel blend mandates and financial incentives for biofuel blending programmes remained the most common forms of support for renewable energy in the transport sector. Despite ongoing debates over biofuel production and use, including sustainability concerns, biofuel support policies were adopted throughout 2016. Biofuel blend mandates were added or revised in Argentina, India, Malaysia, Panama and Zimbabwe, and the United States released new blending mandates under its Renewable Fuel Standard. The year also brought increased policy support for development and use of advanced biofuels, including Denmark’s advanced biofuels mandate.
City and Local Government Renewable Energy Policies
The number of cities around the world committing to 100% renewable energy continues to grow
Local policy makers have spearheaded the promotion of renewable energy in municipalities around the world through the use of their unique purchasing and regulatory authority. The number of cities committed to transitioning to 100% renewable energy in total energy use or in the electricity sector has continued to rise. In 2016, the Australian Capital Territory added a new commitment, and several other large cities – such as Calgary (Canada), Tokyo (Japan), Cape Town (South Africa) and New York (United States) – set significant targets during the year.
6. Enabling Technologies and Energy Systems Integration
Enabling technologies help foster a greater uptake of renewable energy in all sectors
The GSR’s first chapter on Enabling Technologies aims to convey information on current developments in various energy technologies, infrastructure, markets and institutional frameworks that advance and facilitate expanded deployment of renewable energy technologies. Enabling technologies can take many forms, including storage systems, heat pumps and electric vehicles (EVs).
Enabling technologies can create new markets for renewable energy in buildings, industry and transport. For example, electrification of vehicles not only reduces local air pollution, but also allows for rapidly growing renewable power technologies to displace fossil fuels in a sector where renewables other than biofuels previously were barred from entry. In such instances, air quality is enhanced further, along with other benefits of expanded renewables deployment. Heat pumps allow renewable power to substitute for fossil fuels in buildings and for industrial heat applications. Energy storage solutions help to balance grid-connected renewable energy supply against energy demand and to facilitate off-grid renewable energy deployment.
Enabling technologies also help to better accommodate rapidly growing shares of variable renewable electricity generation. Power systems have always required flexibility to accommodate ever-changing electricity demand, system constraints and supply disruptions, but growing shares of variable generation may require additional flexibility from the broader energy system. The increased integration of the electricity sector with thermal applications in buildings and industry and with transport is one such approach, as is increased use of energy storage.
About 0.8 GW of new advanced, non-pumped energy storage capacity became operational in 2016, bringing the year-end capacity total to an estimated 6.4 GW. Most of the growth was in battery (electro-chemical) storage. By year's end, total European installed heat pump capacity reached about 73.6 GWth, producing 148 TWh of useful energy. In 2016, global sales of EVs reached an estimated 775,000 units – representing around 1% of global passenger car sales, and more than 2 million passenger EVs were on the world’s roads by year’s end.
7. Energy Efficiency
New targets, additional investment, declining energy intensity
Action to improve energy efficiency increased during 2016 in all sectors and at all levels of government and in the private sector. Worldwide, there is a growing recognition that energy efficiency plays a key role in reducing pollution and that it can provide multiple additional benefits, including enhanced energy security, reduced fuel poverty and improved health. Energy savings help renewable energy to meet a higher share of energy demand and to enter new markets.
Despite lower oil prices, households, businesses and governments worldwide continue to invest strongly in energy efficiency improvements. Incremental investments in energy efficiency in buildings, industry and transport increased by 6% in 2015, to USD 221 billion.
Primary energy intensity improved by 2.6% in 2015. Improvements were more marked in developing and emerging economies, most of which are still growing rapidly and have more efficiency potential remaining. High primary energy intensity can be driven by high shares of relatively energy-intensive economic activities, use of less-efficient technologies, under-utilisation of productive capacity, or a large share of thermal power generation, in particular coal, rather than non-thermal renewable power.
Energy intensity per square metre in the buildings sector has improved, but not fast enough to offset the doubling of floor area since 1990. Energy demand for several appliance and equipment categories also continues to rise, despite improvements in efficiency, due largely to a rapid increase in units per household, in addition to the growing number of electrified households. Buildings can take advantage of the synergies between energy efficiency and renewable energy by facilitating the use of on-site renewable energy to meet building energy loads.
Policies have been the main driver of energy efficiency improvements, with innovations in technology and finance also playing important roles. An increasing number of countries is setting energy efficiency targets; adopting new policies and standards, and updating existing ones; and introducing new financial incentives to channel additional funding towards energy efficiency. Many policies attempt to harness the synergy between energy efficiency and renewable energy.
8. Feature: Deconstructing Baseload
Dispelling the myths of traditional baseload power
Growth in variable renewable energy is changing how traditional, established power systems are planned, designed and operated for greater flexibility. Traditional baseload generators such as coal and nuclear power plants are beginning to lose their economic advantage and may no longer be the first to dispatch energy. In areas where demand is growing (notably in developing economies), there is an opportunity for new and less-developed power systems to grow in concert with higher shares of renewable generation as more-flexible systems are developed.
A number of countries and regions – including Denmark, Germany, Uruguay and Cabo Verde – have integrated high shares (20-40%) of variable renewable energy, demonstrating the potential to shift away from the traditional baseload paradigm. Improved resource forecasting, electricity storage, demand response, and co-ordination and trade of electricity supply across larger balancing areas are among the flexibility options that can be employed to integrate variable renewables; decisions regarding which options are most appropriate and cost-effective vary according to different institutional, technological and economic contexts. The ease of grid integration also varies from country to country.
A range of planning, operational and institutional changes to the power system can be pursued to promote overall least-cost operation and investment strategies while preserving reliability. As variable renewable energy resources and other enabling technologies continue to achieve more favourable cost and performance characteristics, the incentive to deploy them will continue to increase, moving new and existing systems further from the baseload paradigm.