Renewables accounted for nearly three quarters of global power capacity additions last year – half of which was switched on in Asia, according to latest figures form the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).

According to Irena’s Renewable Capacity Statistics 2020, the wind, solar, hydropower, bioenergy, geothermal and off-grid energy sectors together added 176GW (72%) of new generating capacity worldwide in 2019, slightly lower than the 179GW added a year earlier.

Asia dominated the renewable expansion last year, accounting for 54% of these additions.

“Renewable energy is a cost-effective source of new power that insulates power markets and consumers from volatility, supports economic stability and stimulates sustainable growth,” Irena director-general Francesco La Camera said.

“With renewable additions providing the majority of new capacity last year, it is clear that many countries and regions recognise the degree to which the energy transition can deliver positive outcomes.”

La Camera added: “At this challenging time, we are reminded of the importance of building resilience into our economies. In what must be the decade of action, enabling policies are needed to increase investments and accelerate renewables adoption.”

Total renewable power growth outpaced fossil fuel growth by a factor of 2.6, continuing the dominance of renewables in power expansion first established in 2012. Solar and wind contributed 90% of all renewable capacity added in 2019.

While renewables accounted for at least 70% of the world-wide capacity expansion, they only represented 52% of Africa’s and 26% of the Middle East’s net additions.

Solar added 98GW in 2019 (60% of which was in Asia), while wind energy expanded by close to 60GW led by growth in China (26GW) and in the US (9GW).

Solar and wind now generate close to half of the world-wide renewables capacity, or 623GW and 586GW respectively.

Highlights by technology:

Hydropower: Growth was unusually low in 2019, possibly because some large projects missed their expected completion dates. China and Brazil accounted for most of the expansion, each adding more than 4GW.

Wind energy: Wind performed particularly well in 2019, expanding by nearly 60GW. China and the US continued to dominate with increases of 26GW and 9GW respectively.

Solar energy: Asia continued to dominate global solar capacity expansion with a 56GW increase, but this was lower than in 2018. Other major increases were in the United States, Australia, Spain, Ukraine and Germany.

Bioenergy: Expansion of bioenergy capacity remained modest in 2019. China accounted for half of all new capacity (+3.3GW). Germany, Italy, Japan and Turkey also saw expansion.

Geothermal energy: Geothermal power capacity grew by 682MW in 2019, slightly more than in 2018. Again, Turkey led with an expansion of 232MW, followed by Indonesia (+185MW) and Kenya (+160MW).

Off-grid electricity: Off-grid capacity grew by 160MW (+2%) to reach 8.6GW in 2019. In 2019, off-grid solar PV increased by 112MW and hydropower grew by 3 MW, compared to growth of only 17MW for bioenergy.