A new study from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) came out today (March 31) showing that 2014 was the best year yet for renewable energy with 103 gigawatts coming online across the world. Meanwhile investments in renewable energy, particularly solar and wind were up by 17 percent last year to $270 billion internationally after declining in previous years. The news comes despite the sharply lowered prices of crude oil.
The news comes as the U.S. made good on a previous promise with China to reduce its carbon emissions. Today the Obama Administration submitted its climate action plan to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, under which the country has pledged to reduce its carbon emission levels over the next 10 years, limiting them to 28 percent of 2005 levels.
"Once again in 2014, renewables made up nearly half of the net power capacity added worldwide"says Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNEP. "These climate-friendly energy technologies are now an indispensable component of the global energy mix and their importance will only increase as markets mature, technology prices continue to fall and the need to rein in carbon emissions becomes ever more urgent."
The report found that solar energy projects in China and Japan as well as offshore wind projects in Europe were behind much of the increase that boosted investments 17 percent above the $232 billion seen in 2013. Still, the amount invested in renewable energy was less than the $279 billion invested in renewables—excluding large hydro-electric projects—in 2011.
While investments in renewable energy fell in 2012 and 2013, the fall was not attributed to a lack of interest in the technologies, rather a drop in the costs of renewables due to economies of scale. “A continuing sharp decline in technology costs—particularly in solar but also in wind—means that every dollar invested in renewable energy bought significantly more generating capacity in 2014," the report stated.
To put it in perspective in 2014, 103 gigawatts of renewable energy came online. In 2011, when spending was $9 billion more, 81 gigawatts of renewable energy came online. In 2012, 86 gigawatts of renewable energy came online, and in 2013, 89 gigawatts of renewables came online. The trend shows that renewable energy is continually delivering more bang for the buck.
The biggest investments came in China, which invested $83.3 billion in renewables, up 39 percent from 2013. However, the U.S. was second in renewable energy investments with $38.3 billion—up 7 percent—from the previous year. “As in previous years, the market in 2014 was dominated by record investments in solar and wind, which accounted for 92 percent of overall investment in renewable power and fuels,” the report found.
Solar accounted for most of the growth with $149.6 billion in investments, up 25 percent from the previous year, resulting 46 gigawatts of installations worldwide. Thatt reflects a trend first seen last year, when solar spending outpaced wind for the first time. However, spending on wind reached a record $99.5 billion and saw 49 gigawatts of new energy coming online.
The report also saw increased investment in renewables in developing nations. It found that investments jumped 36 percent to $131.3 billion, led by China. However, Brazil invested $7.6 billion, India invested $7.4 billion and South Africa invested $5.5 billion in renewable energy. "The growing penetration of renewable generation in the world's developing economies is one of the important and encouraging aspects of the 2014 report,” Steiner said.Tweet