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Published on March 26th, 2016 | by Guest Contributor

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2015 Renewable Energy Investments Were Double Fossil Fuel Power Plant Investments

March 26th, 2016 by  

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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  • Lincoln1932

    Just check the breakdown of those renewables, it is mostly about Photovoltaic production in China. Only one of those unfair practices of China against world trade by dumping and copying. Nothing much to discuss about this. This is just one news of trying to cover-up their unfriendly and very unsustainable behavior against its neighbors. No other worst deliberate destruction of nature can replace in what they are doing in South China Sea. Those illegitimate rulers are being excessively accommodated by the civil world for the sake of money. F U C K U A L L.

    • Ronald Brakels

      ABBA – Lay All Your Love On Me (Original Australian Draft)

      I wasn’t jealous before we met
      Now every trade inquiry’s a potential threat
      And I’m possessive, I just want more,
      You heard me saying that
      Coal smoke was my only vice
      But now it isn’t right
      The sun burns bright
      And what I generate will compensate
      Thanks to you

      Don’t go wasting foreign exchange
      Dump all your PV on me

      I like trading oh so much
      A little ore and some wheat
      And baby I was stuck
      I still don’t know what
      You’ve done with me
      A coal exporter shouldn’t love PV
      I feel a kind of schism
      Without your capitalism
      I need a charge, your production’s large
      I beg you dear

      Don’t go wasting foreign exchange
      Dump all your PV on me
      Don’t go sharing your production
      Dump all your PV on me

      • Lincoln1932

        Yeah gobbled it up quickly and one day you will be eaten alive by those commie Chinese.

    • super390

      I think that rulers who try to improve the wages and education of their citizens have a better claim to legitimacy than the bought-out politicians of the corporatist parties of the West, who try to destroy wages and dumb down their citizens because only scared, bigoted peons will support their restoration of feudalism – and cheer for pollution and CO2 emissions to boot. If cheap Chinese PV won’t save us from the Wall Street fossil fuel criminals, what’s left?

      • Lincoln1932

        simply brainless

  • Peter Moss

    It is true that the investment is in developing countries. Investment in the EU has been steady declining and there have only been small amounts of nuclear investments in the EU. They are going to have to invest in something if their Carbon Dioxide emissions are going to be reduced.

    I also note that we should not be surprised that there is more investment in renewables than in fossil fuels. Much of the new investment in fossil fuel is for natural gas and it is inexpensive to build but more expensive to run.

  • JamesWimberley

    “Without further policy interventions, climate-altering emissions of carbon dioxide will increase for at least another decade.” The IEA begs to differ. It reports carbon emissions from fuels and cement as static for the second year running.

    BTW, $285 billion in 2015 bought a lot more capacity than 2011’s $278 billion, even though this was higher in real terms. Agreed that the absolute volume still has to rise, technical progress won’t get us to net zero nearly fast enough.

    ” … 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.”
    In the US, coal plants are shutting down to a considerable extent because of regulatory pressure and cheap natural gas. In the UK, it’s policy. In Germany, the creaming-off effect by renewables, and the consequent lowering of the spot wholesale price, lowers coal plant capacity factors. Their O&M costs are high and largely fixed, so this worsens their economics. The owners of these plants are trying hard to dump them on the government. In India, the big corporations who are supposed to be building all the new coal generating plants have seen this death spiral and are hanging back.

  • Matt

    $286 billion/year. Is between 1/2 $500B (ODI est.) to 1/20 $5.3T (IMF est.) of fossil fuel support world wide.
    ODI – http://cleantechnica.com/2013/11/11/fossil-fuels-receive-500-billion-year-government-subsidies-worldwide/
    IMF – http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/may/18/fossil-fuel-companies-getting-10m-a-minute-in-subsidies-says-imf
    If COP 21 is to get off the ground these government hand-outs to fossil have to stop.

    • Peter Moss

      I do not think that you understood the article in The Guardian which was discussing the IMF’s estimate of the Social Costs of fossil fuel. It is not about actual monetary subsidies..

      • JamesWimberley

        The estimate is dominated by the air pollution and climate costs, but it does include $333bn of “cut-price fuel from governments”, i.e. cash subsidies. Even on a narrow definition, you have to add tax breaks like the US oil depletion allowance, and giveaway leases on public lands.

        The health costs from air pollution are pretty objective. The OECD estimate the value of life using the price people would pay to avoid a risk, which is going to be much higher in Norway than Chad. The costs of treatment, days of work lost, and disability care in both places can all be estimated with some certainty. Climate damage is much harder to put a sensible number to: what is the value of the risk of civilisational catastrophe, even if you think it’s only 5%?

        • neroden

          The giveaway leases are the largest of the US monetary giveaways to oil & coal companies. I’ve never seen a really solid number put on it, probably because the Minerals Management Service was very very bad about its paperwork.

          • armchair261

            Please define “giveaway lease.” Leases of federal lands are auctioned or alternatively sold through a sealed bidding process.

            You can raise royalties, but then the bids will be reduced. You can raise the minimum bid, but then there will be fewer bids. It’s a zero sum game. How would you change the system, specifically?

      • jeffhre

        Though it is about support, all of which has economic value.

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