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2015 Renewable Energy Investments Were Double Fossil Fuel Power Plant Investments

Originally published on Sustainnovate.

Global Investment Into Renewable Energy In 2015 Set New Record, Double Fossil Fuel Investments

The level of global investment into renewable energy hit an all-time high in 2015 — with the collective tab nearly breaking the $286 billion mark — according to a new report published by the UN Environment Programme, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and the Frankfurt School.

The rapidly rising investment figures are partly the result of the continuing drop in solar and wind energy development costs — meaning that, as development prices continue to fall, investment figures should continue to rise as well.

In order to avoid many of the expected negatives of anthropogenic climate change, such investments will need to grow considerably more than they have to date, though. So, despite the good news of the new record, things aren’t quite where they need to be.

The new record (which doesn’t factor investments into large-scale hydroelectric projects into the equations) represents a notable increase from the previous record of $278.5 billion, set back in 2011. It also represents a large lead over the fossil fuel power plant investments for the year, which came in at $130 billion.

Many of the countries that are referred to as being “developing countries” led the charge towards renewable energy investment — with India, China, and Brazil together putting $156 billion into renewable energy investment in 2015 (a 19% rise over the previous year). $103 billion of this was solely from China (a 17% rise over the previous year).
Solar and wind energy generation plant installations hit an all-time high in 2015 as well — with a total of 118 gigawatts (GW) installed during the year.

“Although 2015 was a landmark year with the signing of the Paris agreement, the good news about renewables uptake is still not nearly enough to stabilize emissions below the 2°C trajectory,” noted Eric Usher, chief of the UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative.

Climate Central explains:

Solar, wind and other low-carbon electricity sources have prevented 1.5 gigatons of greenhouse gases from being emitted per year over the past decade compared to a global electric power system running mostly on fossil fuels, he said. To reach the 2°C goal, annual emissions need to be cut an additional 10 gigatons by 2020.

That’s a huge challenge, Usher said, because many coal-fired power plants currently in use are built to last 40 years or more, and many have 20 or more years of life left in them, making it unlikely utilities will shut them down anytime soon.

“Despite ambitious signals from COP21 in Paris and the growing capacity of new installed renewable energy, there is still a long way to go,” commented Frankfurt School President Udo Steffens. “Coal-fired power stations and other conventional power plants have long lifetimes. Without further policy interventions, climate-altering emissions of carbon dioxide will increase for at least another decade.”

And in all likelihood, longer than that. Pending theoretical aggressive action from world “leaders,” that is.

Image by UN Environment Programme

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