Solar power came ahead last year to become the world's leading new source of power generation, bringing clean energy technologies, including wind and hydro, to surpass coal in global installed capacity.
Solar PV added 118 gigawatts (GW) of new plants in 2019 on its way to reaching 651 GW of capacity, surpassing the total of 644 GW from wind.
The figure allowed it to become the fourth largest source of energy on the planet, behind 2.1TW from coal, 1.8TW from gas and 1.2TW from hydroelectric.
Solar and wind power together accounted for 67 percent of new added capacity globally in 2019, while fossil fuels slipped to 25 percent, according tothe new report2020 energy transition trends of BNEF, which tracks generation and capacity data over the past decade.
Along with hydroelectric dams, the clean energy sector has built around 2.5TW of plants around the world.
"The sharp decreases in the costs of solar equipment, that is, the modules that are placed on rooftops and in fields, have made this technology widely available to homes, businesses and networks," said Luiza Demôro, analyst at BNEF and lead author of the study.
"Photovoltaics is now truly ubiquitous and a global phenomenon."
Solar PV eclipsed all participants in terms of new construction and was the most popular technology deployed in 33 percent of nations, with 81 countries building at least 1.0MW of solar power during the last calendar year and accounting for almost the half of all new power generation capacity built worldwide.
Wind and solar renewable energy engines totaled more than two-thirds of the 265 GW of additional capacity deployed worldwide in 2019.
This was up from less than a quarter of the new plant in 2010, while for the first time the two technologies accounted for the majority of the new generation on record.
“Wind and solar construction was primarily concentrated in the wealthiest nations during the first half of the 2010s, but that has changed recently,” Ms. Demôro noted.
“In a group that includes almost all the nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), wind and solar energy have accounted for the majority of new capacity built each year since 2011.
"Among a group of non-OECD countries plus Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Turkey, wind and solar energy have accounted for the majority of annual construction each year since 2016."
BNEF noted that the most recent data offers "other important insights about how the world is generating electricity," including that from 2018 to 2019, energy produced from coal fell by three percent due to plants "operating less frequently." , marking the first time that coal generation had dropped from 2014-2015.
The average utilization rate in lignite power plants has fallen from 57% in 2010 to 50% in 2019, according to the BNEF report, although the 9,200TWh produced from coal last year increased 17% compared to 2010.
However, more than 113 GW of net coal withdrawals in developed nations during the 2010s did not make up for the 691 GW “flood” in emerging markets that led to a 32% increase in global coal capacity since 2010 to 2.1TW last year.
"Richer countries are moving rapidly towards older and largely inefficient coal plants because they cannot compete with new gas or renewable energy projects," said Ethan Zindler, Americas director at BNEF.
"However, in less developed nations, particularly in South and Southeast Asia, new, more efficient coal plants continue to operate, often with financial support from Chinese and Japanese lenders."
BNEF estimates that CO2 emissions from the global energy sector fell 1.5 percent in 2018-2019, as declines in the United States and Europe more than offset a rise in China, which accounted for 37 percent of total 2019.
The United States followed with 14 percent and the European Union with six percent.