Record investment in clean energy, but warning for UK

11th February 2016

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  • Mitigation ,
  • Renewable


Catherine Hill

Global investment in clean energy projects reached record levels last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

Almost $329bn was invested in 2015, said BNEF, with 64GW of wind and 57GW of solar PV commissioned during the year, a capacity increase of almost 30%. China led the way, investing $110.5bn, a 17% rise on 2014 levels, while the UK was the strongest European market, with investment up 24% to $23.4bn.

According to trade association RenewableUK, onshore and offshore wind farms generated 11% of UK electricity in 2015 – up from 9.5% in 2014. This set a new annual record, while the 17% generated in December set a new monthly high. ‘We’ve had a bumper harvest thanks to increased deployment and superb wind speeds,’ said Gordon Edge, RenewableUK’s director of policy.

The 11% of UK electricity generated by wind last year comprised 5.8% from onshore and 5.2% from offshore wind. Overall, 21% of the UK’s electricity came from renewable energy sources in 2015.

Despite the record-breaking year for wind power, separate BNEF research for the Independent warned that the UK renewable energy industry was about to ‘fall off a cliff’. BNEF forecasts that the government’s decision to end subsidies for onshore wind will result in at least 1GW less of renewable energy generation being installed in the UK over the next five years. After 2020, the new renewables infrastructure will collapse to almost nothing, it forecast.

‘The government is kicking the onshore wind industry off the ladder too soon,’ said David Hostert, an analyst at BNEF. ‘Without some form of change in policy support, we could see investment drop off a cliff after 2019.’

Meanwhile, research by consultancy DNV GL for WWF Scotland has concluded that Scotland can meet its 2030 energy decarbonisation target of 50g CO2/kwh if it adopts a renewables-based electricity system and improves energy efficiency.

‘An almost entirely renewables-based system is possible with moderate efforts to reduce demand for electricity and ongoing work to reinforce the grid,’ says the report, Pathways to Power. ‘The current pipeline of renewables will be more than adequate to hit the decarbonisation target and allow for substantial export of electricity to the rest of Britain.’

The report puts the cost of the additional renewables capacity needed to hit the 2030 target at £663m a year. This, it says, is roughly the same as generating the equivalent electricity from unabated gas-fired plants.

Renewables can aid global economic growth, says IRENA

Achieving a 36% share of renewables in the global energy mix by 2030 would increase global gross domestic product (GDP) by up to 1.1% – or about $1.3trn a year – according to analysis by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

Its report, Renewable Energy Benefits: Measuring the Economics, provides the first global estimate of the macroeconomic impacts of renewable energy deployment. It outlines the advantages that would accrue by doubling the global share of renewable energy by 2030 from 2010 levels, and says improvements in human welfare would go well beyond gains in GDP due to a range of social and environmental benefits.

The impact of renewables deployment on welfare is estimated to be three to four times larger than its impact on GDP. Meanwhile, employment in the renewable energy sector would increase worldwide from 9.2 million to more than 24 million by 2030.

‘Mitigating climate change through the deployment of renewable energy and achieving other socio-economic targets is no longer an either or equation,’ said Adnan Amin, IRENA director-general. ‘An investment in one is an investment in both. That is the definition of a win-win.’

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