While we in the UK are struggling with the economics of buying French state owned nuclear technology run by Chinese state owned contractors, the rest of the word is seeing huge growth in renewables with record worldwide investment and implementation of clean energy such as wind, solar and hydropower in 2015.
Some 147 Gigawatts of renewable electricity came online in 2015 – the largest annual increase ever and as much as Africa’s entire power generating capacity.
Clean energy investment increased to $286bn (£198bn), with solar energy accounting for 56% of the total and wind power for 38%.
Overall, more than twice as much money was spent on renewables than on coal and gas-fired power generation ($130bn in 2015), the REN21 global status report found.
Christine Lins, REN21’s chief, said: “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. For every dollar spent boosting renewables, nearly four dollars were spent to maintain our dependence on fossil fuels.”
For the first time, emerging economies outspent richer nations in the green energy race, with China accounting for a third of the global total. Jamaica, Honduras, Uruguay and Mauritania were among the highest investors, relative to their GDP. African and Latin American countries also set some of the world’s most ambitious targets for clean energy deployment last year, the report says.
In developed countries however the renewables revolution stuttered, with the significant exception of the US. In Europe, investment plummeted by 21% after the withdrawal of policy supports, such as clean energy subsidies and binding targets.
Despite this, renewables still provide 44% of the EU’s electricity capacity, and 15% of its final energy consumption.
Jean-François Fauconnier of Climate Action Network Europe said the report should be a “wake up call” to the European commission, spurring increased 2030 renewable goals in a review later this year. “The EU is at risk of missing the ongoing energy revolution and lagging behind other leading economies for decades,” he said.
The UK saw a 25% rise in renewable energy investments last year, the paper finds. But figures for the first quarter of 2016 suggest this may not survive cuts to solar subsidies and a slowdown in onshore wind planning approval.