The global renewable energy industry added a record 147 GW of new capacity in 2015, according to the latest annual status report from REN21.
Published this week by renewable energy policy organization REN21, the Renewables 2016 Global Status Report provides a comprehensive overview of the global renewable energy industry for 2015. Thus, according to REN21, global renewable energy capacity increased by its largest margin ever, up 147 GW to 1,849 GW cumulative (including large-hydro).
Unsurprisingly, wind and solar were the big movers in 2015, installing 113 GW between them. Wind increased from its total cumulative capacity from 370 GW in 2014 to 433 GW in 2015, while solar added 50 GW, growing from 177 GW to 227 GW.
In total, renewable energy’s share of the global electricity production sat at 23.7%, with hydropower responsible for the lion’s share of that.
“What is truly remarkable about these results is that they were achieved at a time when fossil fuel prices were at historic lows, and renewables remained at a significant disadvantage in terms of government subsidies,” said Christine Lins, Executive Secretary of REN21. “For every dollar spent boosting renewables, nearly four dollars were spent to maintain our dependence on fossil fuels.”
Investment in renewable energy reached a new record as well, with $386 billion invested worldwide into renewable power and fuels — a number which goes even higher if investment in large hydropower and heating & cooling is taken into account.
More investment means more jobs, too, with 8.1 million people now working in the global renewable energy sector — a number confirmed last week by the International Renewable Energy Agency.
“The renewables train is barreling down the tracks, but it’s running on 20th century infrastructure – a system based on outdated thinking where conventional baseload is generated by fossil fuels and nuclear power,” said Arthouros Zervos, Chair of REN21. “To accelerate the transition to a healthier, more secure and climate-safe future, we need to build the equivalent of a high-speed rail network – a smarter, more flexible system that maximizes the use of variable sources of renewable energy, and accommodates decentralized and community-based generation.”
The authors of the report agree, providing several challenges that they believe governments will need to address if they are to fulfill their renewable energy and climate targets. These include:
- achieving effective integration of high shares of renewables into the grid
- addressing policy and political instability, regulatory barriers, and fiscal constraints
- there is far less policy focus on transport and, particularly, heating and cooling, so these sectors are progressing much more slowly
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