2015 was a record year for investments in renewables, according to the Renewables Global Status Report.
According to Ren21, the global renewable energy policy multi-stakeholder network, an estimated 147 gigawatts (GW) of renewable power capacity was added in 2015, recording the largest annual increase ever. Moreover, renewable heat capacity increased by around 38 gigawatts-thermal (GWth), and total biofuels production also rose.
“The fact that we had 147GW of capacity, mainly of wind and solar is a clear indication that these technologies are cost competitive (with fossil fuels),” said Christine Lins, who is executive secretary of REN21, in an interview with BBC. “They are the preference for many countries and more and more utilities and investors and that is a very positive signal,” she added.
Investments in renewables, particularly in the power sector, were driven by several factors, including the improving cost-competiveness of renewable technologies, better access to financing, energy security and environmental concerns.
The renewables power sector experienced its largest annual increase in capacity ever, with significant growth in all regions. Wind and solar PV had record additions for the second consecutive year, accounting for about 77% of new installations, and hydropower represented most of the remainder.
The report highlights that the world now adds more renewable power capacity annually than it adds (net) capacity from all fossil fuels combined. By the end of 2015, renewable capacity in place was enough to supply an estimated 23.7% of global electricity, with hydropower providing about 16.6%.
Moreover, employment in the renewable energy sector, including large-scale hydropower, increased in 2015 to an estimated 9.4 million jobs (direct and indirect). Solar PV and biofuels provided the largest numbers of renewable energy jobs while 1.3 million jobs were added in largescale hydropower. According to the report, leading renewable employers in 2015 were China, Brazil, the United States and India.
“The renewables industry is not just dependant on a couple of markets but it has turned into a truly global one with markets everywhere and that is really encouraging,” the Ren21 official stressed.