According to a United Nations Environment Programme report released in March by Frankfurt School UNEP Centre and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, renewables are becoming an important global source of power.
Through quick expansion in developing countries, new builds of carbon-free renewable power plants in 2014 eclipsed 100,000 megawatts of capacity for the first time ever, according to the Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment Report.
Renewable energy now appears to be entering the market at a scale that is important in energy industry terms and at a cost that competes with fossil fuels.
Renewables like wind, biomass and solar created around 9.1% of the world’s electricity in 2014, growing from 8.5% in 2013. These made up most of new power capacity throughout Europe and also provided electricity to new markets.
Some experts still predict that fossil fuels will supply most of our energy for further decades, but evidence suggest otherwise. As the Global Trends report explains, the clean energy investment that financed almost half of all new power plants in 2014 came at quite a bad time for renewables. As oil prices were decreasing and China’s consumption of coal was falling, both assets were more economically suitable.
In developing countries, clean energy investment rose 36% to $13bn. It’s on the right track to eclipse investment in developing countries, which added up to $139bn last year.
In terms of investment, China led with $83bn in clean energy funding, but lots of other countries weren’t far behind. A lot of the countries with the most potential, such as India, South Africa and Brazil are believed to lead the way. Kenya also has one of the biggest solar rooftop systems across the whole of Africa and the largest wind farm, which comes as a surprise.
It’s a tough task to emphasise how big and impressive this change is. In the early years of this century, it was hard to think that between 2004 and 2011, 70% of new power capacity added in Europe would originate from renewable energy sources. Along with that, the 100,000 megawatts of renewable capacity that were calculated around the world in 2014 are comparable to the overall installed nuclear power capacity in the United States.
In some respect, comparing the scope of US nuclear installations to renewable installations worldwide doesn’t seem correct. While you can compare the capacities, you cannot compare the overall energy generation, although it’s clear that we’re finally producing renewable energy at a global scale. You can find this in Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance 2030 Market Outlook; it predicts the capacity of new renewable installations, including large scale hydro which could over the next 15 years surpass that of newer fossil fuel power plants by as much as three times.
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