Climate Action

Global solar installations smash fossil fuels over the past year

Solar power took another step towards global domination last year with a record 98 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity coming online.

  • 05 April 2018
  • Adam Wentworth

Solar power took another step towards global domination last year with a record 98 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity coming online.

This astonishing figure was more than the amount of new coal, gas and nuclear plants put together. Net fossil fuel installations only reached 70GW in 2017.

Fresh analysis has been provided by UN Environment, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and the Frankfurt School’s UNEP Collaborating Centre.

Analysts found that China, so often the engine of the global economy, led the way with 53GW of new solar capacity being built across its vast tracts of land.

In addition, the report highlights the $279.8 billion of new investment committed to renewable projects last year, a 2 percent increase, and that solar accounted for the bulk of this at $160 billion, more than any other technology.

The high level of investment wasn’t a one off as last year was the eighth in a row that global commitments to renewable energy topped $200 billion.

The continued boom in solar power provides renewed hope that the technology can supplant fossil fuels as one of the leading providers of electricity worldwide. All renewables still only provide 12.1 percent of power, which has still helped avoid an estimated 1.8 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide from being emitted.

“The extraordinary surge in solar investment shows how the global energy map is changing and, more importantly, what the economic benefits are of such a shift,” said UN Environment head Erik Solheim. “Investments in renewables bring more people into the economy, they deliver more jobs, better quality jobs and better paid jobs. Clean energy also means less pollution, which means healthier, happier development.”

Nils Stieglitz, President of Frankfurt School of Finance & Management said that the fact that solar outpaced all other technologies combined “shows where we are heading, although the fact that renewables altogether are still far from providing the majority of electricity means that we still have a long way to go.”