UNEP reports record high investment in renewables
The world invested record levels in renewable energy infrastructure in 2015, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has announced, after the 10th Edition of its
Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2016
report revealed that hundreds of billions of dollars were injected into the sector in 2015. “US$286 billion [was] invested in renewables last year, surpassing the previous total by 3 percent [and made] all the more impressive considering the large drop in the price of oil,” said Eric Usher, Head of the Finance Unit at UNEP at the official launch of the report. In addition to unprecedented investment in renewable infrastructure, the report, which contains an entire chapter dedicated to renewable energy storage, also identified several other key trends, including a noticeable shift away from fossil fuels. “Coal and gas generation generated less than half of the amount attracted by renewables last year and, at 134 gigawatts, renewables added more capacity than ever before,” said Usher. Buoyed by a raft of large scale hydroelectric projects and further falls in generating costs by per megawatt hour, developing and emerging nations also outperformed developed countries for the first time, as collective investments rose by 19 percent to US$156 billion, the report says. This trend is attributed to strong growth in India and China, while South Africa, Mexico, and Chile were singled out among several standout performers to have achieved double-digit growth in 2015. There was also good news for Morocco, Turkey and Uruguay, which joined the list of countries that are investing more than US$1 billion in renewable energy per year. However, there were mixed fortunes for the industrialised countries with Europe witnessing a nine-year record low in capital despite record expenditure in offshore wind capacities. “The challenges of integrating new technologies and varying sun and wind availability [are] probably part of the reason why we’ve seen investment down in a larger part of Europe,” said Ulf Moslener, Professor for Sustainable Energy Finance at the Frankfurt School UNEP Centre and lead author of the report. Meanwhile, in a market still dominated by solar and wind, the report says that annual global carbon dioxide emissions would have been 1.5 gigatons higher in 2015 if it were not for renewable energy investment. “To put this into perspective [there is] currently a gap of about 10 gigatons by 2020 [and] so renewables are closing about 15 percent of the gap, but on their own they will not be enough to stabilise emissions below a 2 degree trajectory,” said Usher. The report was launched by the United Nations Environment Programme, Frankfurt School–UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate and Sustainable Energy Finance and Bloomberg New Energy Finance and will guide efforts to scale up renewable energy infrastructure globally in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.
By Adam Pitt
Photo: UNEP?