Renewable installations broke records in 2015

1st June 2016

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  • Conventional ,
  • Fossil fuels ,
  • Renewable


Stuart Poole

Renewable power generating capacity saw its largest ever increase last year, despite historic low prices for fossil fuels, according to new data.

An estimated 147GW of renewable power generation was added worldwide last year, providing enough to supply approximately 23.7% of global electricity. Renewable heat capacity increased by around 38GW, enough to provide 8% of demand for heating and cooling.

In renewable transport, ethanol production rose from 94.5 to 98.3 billion litres, while biodiesel production dropped from 30.4 to 30.1 billion litres.

The data was revealed by REN21, an international group comprising governments, campaign groups, research and academic institutions and industry, in its latest annual overview of the state of renewable energy.

The organisation cites several factors behind the record growth; the most significant is that renewables are now cost competitive with fossil fuels in many markets. Government leadership plays a key role, particularly in the wind and solar sectors. By early 2016, 173 countries had renewable energy targets and 146 countries had support policies, according to REN 21’s analysis.

Other reasons behind the growth include better access to financing, concerns about energy security and the environment, and the growing demand for modern energy services in developing economies, the organisation added.

Investment in renewable energy in developing countries surpassed that in developed economies for the first time, REN 21 found. Total global investment reached $285.9bn in 2015, with China accounting for more than one third of this, it said.

By contrast, renewable energy investment in developed countries declined by 8% in 2015, to $130bn. The most significant decrease was seen in Europe (down 21% to $48.8bn), despite the region’s record year of financing for offshore wind power ($17bn, up 11% from 2014).

While the organisation noted mainly positive trends, the report highlights several challenges including effective integration of high shares of renewables into the grid; policy and political instability; regulatory barriers and fiscal constraints.

The far lower focus on support and policies for renewable transport and heating and cooling is telling in the much slower rates of progress, it adds.

Arthouros Zervos, chair of REN21 said: ‘The renewables train is barreling down the tracks, but it’s running on 20th century infrastructure - a system based on outdated thinking where conventional baseload is generated by fossil fuels and nuclear power.’

A smarter, more flexible system maximising the use of variable sources of renewable energy, decentralised and community-based generation is needed, he added.


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