Global investment in renewable energy in 2015 double that of new coal and gas generation - UNEP

Wind and Solar energy generating capacity deployments came to 118GW last year. Credit: UNEP

Global investment in renewable energy reached a new record of US$285.9 billion in 2015 more than double the US$130 billion of investments in new coal and gas generation, according to new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) figures.

Meanwhile, for the first time, more than half of all power generation capacity additions came from renewables, said UNEP's ‘Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2016’ report, prepared by the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate and Sustainable Energy Finance and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Wind and solar energy generating capacity deployments came to 118GW last year, up 24GW from 2014’s 94GW of installations.

However, despite nearly 200 countries signing up to the 17 goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Change Agreement at COP21, UNEP’s report warned that the global emission trend “remains worrying”, as energy-related emissions are not forecast to peak until the late 2020s, at the earliest.

The cost of renewables continued to fall, especially in solar PV. In the second half of 2015 the global average levelised cost of electricity (LCOE)  for crystalline silicon PV was US$122/MWh, down from $143/MWh in H2 2014. Meanwhile, certain projects are commencing with tariffs significantly below that level.

2015 also marked the first year that so-called developing countries invested more in renewables (excluding large hydro) than supposed developed countries. China, Brazil and India spearheaded the developing country’s investment that totalled US$156 billion, up 19% from 2014, meanwhile developed countries invested US$130 billion, down 8%.

Countries “raising their game” included:

  • China up 17% to US$102.9 billion
  • India up 22% to US$10.2 billion
  • South Africa up 329% to US$4.5 billion
  • Mexico up 105% to US$4 billion
  • Chile up 151% US$3.4 billion

The list of developing countries investing more than US$500 million last year also included Morocco, Uruguay, the Philippines, Pakistan and Honduras.

However, investment in Europe slipped 21% to US$48.8 billion. While UNEP said policy for renewables “remains fickle”, it cited a "less than friendly turn" by the new UK government after the May 2015 election as a specific example. It also cited the US Supreme Court’s decision in February 2016 to allow all legal objections to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan to be heard before it can be implemented.

Energy storage placed alongside wind and solar has also seen rising interest with 250MW of utility-scale storage systems storage (excluding pumped hydro and lead-acid batteries) installed worldwide, up from 160MW in 2014. Announced projects reached 1.2GW.

Despite all the investments, clean technologies only accounted for just over 10% of world electricity last year given the huge amount of traditional generation capacity already built.

United Nations Secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon said: “In 2015, significant strides were made in the financing of renewable energy technologies. Global Trends in renewable energy Investment 2016 increases our confidence that a low-carbon world is attainable and that we are on the right path to reach our objectives, including those under the Sustainable Development Goals. Sustainable, renewable energy is growing, but not quickly enough to meet expected energy demand.

A range of leading international clean technology companies will participate at UNEA from 23-27 May as part of the Sustainable Innovation Expo 2016 (SIE16) to showcase clean tech solutions that countries can adopt to achieve their climate pledges and domestic renewable energy goals.

For further information about participating at UNEA 2016 click here. Climate Action and PV Tech's publisher Solar Media are both part of the Henley Media Group.

Tags: unep, storage, energy storage, bnef

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