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Solar Tech Joshua Valdez, left, and Senior Plant ManagerTim Wisdom walk past solar panels and at a Pacific Gas and Electric Solar Plant, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Vacaville, Calif. Power grid managers say they've been preparing extensively for more than a year for this Monday's solar eclipse and that by ramping up other sources of power, mainly hydroelectric and natural gas, they are confident nobody will lose power or see a spike in energy prices.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP
Environment

2017 Was the Best Year Ever For Solar Power

The global shift toward renewable energy seems to be gaining momentum.

A new report by the United Nations’ environment division found that 98 gigawatts of solar energy were installed across the world in 2017 — the highest annual amount in history, and more than any other installed source of energy from last year.

Renewable energy overall saw an increase of 153 gigawatts, bringing the percentage of electricity generated by renewables to 12.3%, according to the UN.  

Take Action: Ensure All Communities Can Withstand Climate Disaster

China was the driving force behind this explosion, installing 53 gigawatts of solar energy as part of its massive campaign to overhaul its energy system, the UN reports.

A single gigawatt of energy is enough to deliver electricity to 700,000 US homes. The US has one of the highest per-capita energy consumption rates in the world, so one gigawatt can go further in other countries.

Globally, 400 gigawatts of solar energy are produced in the world, up from less than 100 gigawatts in 2012.

Read More: France Sends $861 Million to World’s Largest Solar Power Pact

Wind energy, meanwhile, is closer to 500 gigawatts globally.

Even as the cost of solar technology plummeted around the world in 2017, investments in solar energy grew by 18% compared with the year before, according to the UN’s report.  

“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 UNEP chief Erik Solheim in a statement.

“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,” he said.

All around the world, countries are surpassing renewable energy targets.

Portugal recently generated more than 103% of its energy for March from wind and hydroelectric power.  

Read More: Renewable Energy Could Soon Be Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels, UN Reports

Other countries, such as Costa Rica, Scotland, and Norway, are breaking renewable energy records, while major fossil fuel markets like China and India are making massive investments in sustainability initiatives.

To wit, India is spearheading a movement to more than triple the amount of solar energy in the world.

These efforts will culminate in 2020, when countries are expected to significantly ratchet up their commitments under the the Paris Climate Agreement, which seeks to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.

Global Citizen campaigns on the UN’s Global Goals, which call on countries to fulfill the Paris Climate Agreement. You can take action on this issue here.