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2014 'best year ever' for new green energy capacity

2014 'best year ever' for new green energy capacity

2014 'best year ever' for new green energy capacity 

2014 was the "best year ever" in terms of the amount of new green energy capacity brought online, according to a new study from the UN.

Published on March 31st, the ninth annual Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investments report - produced by the Frankfurt School UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Centre in collaboration with Bloomberg Green Energy Finance - showed that global renewable capacity grew by a record-breaking 103 gigawatts over the 12-month period.

This compares to the much smaller increases of 86 gigawatts in 2013, 89 gigawatts in 2012 and 81 gigawatts in 2011, and is equivalent to the combined capacity of all 158 nuclear power plant reactors in the US.

It also means that renewables made up "nearly half" of the net energy capacity added worldwide in 2014, UNEP executive director Achim Steiner observed.

"These climate-friendly energy technologies are now an indispensable component of the global energy mix," he continued, "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."

Collectively, renewable energies - which comprise wind, solar, biomass and waste-to-power, geothermal, small hydro and marine power generation - provided 9.1 per cent of the world's electricity last year, the report stated. This represents a 0.6 percentage point increase on 2013.

In terms of investment, renewables projects attracted a total of $270 billion (£180 billion) in 2014 - a 17 per cent rise on 2013's global spend of $232 billion and just three per cent below the all-time record of $279 billion set in 2011. This comes as a welcome rebound after two consecutive years of declines, which UNEP attributed to record investments in offshore wind power in Europe, as well as major expansions to existing solar installations in China.

Alone, the Far East country accounted for a green energy spend of $83.3 billion, making it the single biggest contributor to the global total and upping its investment by a significant 39 per cent year on year. Solar power in particular saw rapid uptake across Asia in 2014, with China and Japan spending a combined $74.9 billion on the technology over the 12-month period - almost half of the world's total.

Beyond China, a number of other emerging markets saw significant new investments in renewables, including Brazil ($7.6 billion), India ($7.4 billion) and South Africa ($5.5 billion). Mr Steiner described this as one of the most "important and encouraging aspects of the 2014 report".

Udo Steffens, president of the Frankfurt School, cautioned that progress was not as inspiring in developed economies due to the "erosion of investor confidence" that has occurred since Western governments started to restructure their original support policies for renewables.

Nonetheless, he noted that the rooftop solar sector is "becoming unstoppable".

Unadjusted for inflation, 2014's $270 billion investment brings the total spent on renewables since 2004 to $2.02 trillion.

 

Posted by William Rodriguez

Image courtesy of Thinkstock