‘Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2016’, UNEP’s annual publication, launched by the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate & Sustainable Energy Finance and Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), says the annual global investment in new renewables capacity, at $266bn, was more than double the estimated $130bn invested in coal and gas power stations in 2015.
All investments in renewables, including early-stage technology and research and development as well as spending on new capacity, totalled $286bn in 2015, some 3% higher than the previous record in 2011. Since 2004, the world has invested $2.3 trillion in renewable energy (unadjusted for inflation).
All figures for renewables in this release include wind, solar, biomass and waste-to-energy, biofuels, geothermal, marine and small hydro, but exclude large hydro-electric projects of more than 50MW.
Just as significantly, developing world investments in renewables topped those of developed nations for the first time in 2015. Helped by further falls in generating costs per megawatt-hour, particularly in solar photovoltaics (PV), renewables excluding large hydro made up 54% of added gigawatt capacity of all technologies last year. It marks the first time new installed renewables have topped the capacity added from all conventional technologies.
The 134 gigawatts (GW) of renewable power added worldwide in 2015 compares to 106GW in 2014 and 87GW in 2013. Were it not for renewables excluding large hydro, annual global CO2 emissions would have been an estimated 1.5 gigatons higher in 2015.
“Renewables are becoming ever more central to our low-carbon lifestyles, and the record-setting investments in 2015 are further proof of this trend. Importantly, for the first time in 2015, renewables in investments were higher in developing countries than developed,” said UNEP executive director, Achim Steiner.
“Access to clean, modern energy is of enormous value for all societies, but especially so in regions where reliable energy can offer profound improvements in quality of life, economic development and environmental sustainability. Continued and increased investment in renewables is not only good for people and planet, but will be a key element in achieving international targets on climate change and sustainable development. ”
Domination by PV and wind
As in previous years, the report shows the 2015 renewable energy market was dominated by solar PV and wind, which together added 118GW in generating capacity, far above the previous record of 94GW set in 2014. Wind added 62GW and PV 56GW. More modest amounts were provided by biomass and waste-to-power, geothermal, solar thermal and small hydro.
In 2015, for the first time, investments in renewable energy in developing and emerging economy nations ($156bn, up 19% compared to 2014) surpassed those in developed countries ($130bn, down 8% from 2014).
Much of these record-breaking developing world investments took place in China (up 17% to $102.9bn, or 36% of the world total). Other developing countries showing increased investment included India (up 22% to $10.2bn), South Africa (up 329% to $4.5bn), Mexico (up 105% to $4bn) and Chile (up 151% to $3.4bn).
Morocco, Turkey and Uruguay all joined the list of countries investing more than $1bn. Overall, developing country investments last year were 17 times higher than in 2004.