Renewables in a global comparison: Germany ranks very high

The Renewables 2019 Global Status Report published in June offers the most comprehensive overview of renewable energy around the world. Germany ranks very high - twice over - in the international comparison.

Germany has the world's third largest renewable energy capacity© Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy; data from: Renewables 2019 Global Status Report, REN21 2019

The Renewables 2019 Global Status Report published by REN21 (Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century) provides the most comprehensive overview currently available of the new world of energy. The latest report shows Germany at or near the top of two rankings: Germany is ranked third behind China and the U.S. in terms of renewable energy capacity, with 113 gigawatts (GW) in 2018. The breakdown of these is as follows: 59 GW takes the form of wind energy, 45 GW solar energy and 8.4 GW biomass.

Germany tops the rankings in terms of per-capita renewables

The United States - with a vastly larger land area - has more than 180 GW of renewable capacity, with much of this also being provided by wind (96 GW) and solar (62 GW). China, again with so much more land area, can draw on a total of 404 GW of renewable capacity. All 28 EU countries together have 339 GW of renewable capacity, and the global figure is 1,246 GW. (Hydropower was not included in the calculations.)

Germany also tops the rankings in terms of per-capita renewables. In per-capita terms, each person in Germany can use 1.4 kilowatts (kW) of renewable energy - by far the highest figure worldwide. The per-capital comparison shows a global average of just 0.2 kW, with 0.3 kW in China and 0.6 kW in the U.S. The EU average stands at 0.7 kW.

Renewables generate more than a quarter of the world’s electricity.

Other findings of the report: renewables are covering an increasing amount of global electricity generation. The status report shows that more than a quarter (26%) of global electricity generation is already produced using renewables. For the fourth year in succession, more renewable generation capacity was installed in the electricity sector in 2018 than fossil and nuclear combined. Last year alone saw the addition of 100 GW of solar capacity. That is roughly equivalent to one quarter of France’s annual electricity demand.

The report demonstrates that solar and wind are now mainstream options in the power sector. At least nine countries produced more than 20% of their electricity from intermittent wind and solar energy (photovoltaics), including Denmark (51%), Uruguay (36%), Ireland (29%), Germany (26%) and Portugal (24 %).

Cities are leading the way in the use of renewable energy

Global renewable energy uptake no longer depends on just a few countries. The use of renewable energy sources continued to rise worldwide in 2018. The report finds that cities are increasingly heading the field in the roll-out of renewables. In numerous cases, voluntary commitments and actions by cities far exceed national and regional initiatives. At least 70% of the electricity consumed is generated from renewable energy in more than 100 cities around the world. These include African conurbations like Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), as well as Stockholm (Sweden), Auckland (New Zealand) and Seattle (USA). At least 50 cities have set themselves wide-ranging targets for renewable energy. Ambitious climate targets have also been adopted by German cities, such as Frankfurt am Main and Osnabrück, which are participating in the 100% RE Cities and Regions Network.

A clear recommendation: extend the energy transition to other fields

The authors of the Renewables 2019 Global Status Report also believe that a great deal of potential lies in extending the energy transition to the fields of heating, cooling and transport. Only 10% of the energy consumed in these sectors is renewable at present. "With the countries needing to come back with more ambitious climate targets in 2020, this report shows there are an array of opportunities to scale up action and improve people’s lives by extending the benefits of the energy transition throughout the economy," says REN21 Chair Arthouros Zervos.