2015 a record year for renewables but still distant second to fossils

Growth in investment in renewables is at a scale not seen before yet the technologies involved still lag some way behind conventional power generation in terms of installations.

10 per cent of the global mix is comprised of renewables but according to the United Nations Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment report the trajectory is upward in terms of investment in the sector.
Renewable energies
Global investment in renewable energy hit a record $285.9bn in 2015, beating the previous high of $278.5bn set in 2011, the study shows. Along with that for the first time more new renewables capacity than fossil-fuel generation came online during 2015.

The report also showed investment in developing nations exceeded developed countries.

The assessment, produced by the Frankfurt School-Unep Collaborating Centre for Climate and Sustainable Energy Finance and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, showed that the developing world committed a total of $156bn (up 19 per cent on 2014 levels) in renewables (excluding large hydro) while developed nations invested $130bn (down 8 per cent from 2014 levels).

UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative’s Eric Usher, one of the assessment’s co-authors, said the findings were, overall, positive and seemed to indicate that a shift was occurring. However, he did add that there were areas that caused concern when the focus shifted to regional or national levels.

“There is a still a lot of uncertainty, especially within Europe, with a degree of policy backtracking or the phasing down of support for the (renewables) industry,” he told BBC.

Co-author Ulf Moslener, head of research at the Frankfurt School-Unep Centre, said the latest figures indicated that shifts in attitude, as well as structure, were occurring.

“This level of investment means… more than half of the capacity added to the global energy mix is renewables-based,” he said.

Prof Moslener added that renewable generation was still dwarfed by fossil fuel-based sources, and only accounted for 10 per cent of the global mix.

“That shows us that we are quite far from having a system that is based on renewables,” he told BBC News.

Despite the record level of investment in renewable generation, the long operating life of coal-fired and gas-fired power stations meant that vast carbon emissions were locked into the global energy mix for decades every time a new power station came online, unless carbon capture and storage technology became a commercial reality.

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