Emerging markets attract most renewables investment

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The second edition of Climatescope, a clean energy country competitiveness index supported by the U.K. and U.S. governments, the Inter-American Development Bank Group and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and which tracks 55 developing world nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, has found that investment in renewables in 2014 reached $126 billion, an increase of 39% on the previous year.

The increase was recorded despite the fact average gross domestic product (GDP) growth across the nations fell 0.7% to 5.7%. While this decline was most apparent in Brazil, South Africa, and China, these three nations attracted $103 billion of the $126 billion investment.

Representing an increase of 21%, 50.4 GW of new renewable capacity was added in 2014 in the 55 nations analyzed – enough to power nine million U.S. homes, states the report – 35 GW of which was installed in China. In the same timeframe, 76 new "clean energy-friendly" policies were rolled out.

According to Climatescope’s findings, declining prices are driving growth, particularly in the solar arena. Global solar PV costs are said to have fallen around 15% year on year; solar technology is also ideal in emerging markets where power prices are high and irradiance is favorable.

Solar spotlight on Africa

Globally, around 1.3 billion people are still said to be without access to electricity. Renewables are helping to address the issue, however, with solar energy again playing a leading role here, particularly with regards to off-grid.

Recent reports have pointed to the growing role solar is playing in Africa in particular, including a study released by the World Bank Group and the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA), in partnership with BNEF, which found that a new market, for off-grid solar products, has opened up, worth an annual $300 million, primarily driven by sales in Africa. Sterling and Wilson, meanwhile outlined its aims to install 500 MW of PV in Africa; while a US$100 million investment for renewables deployment in Rwanda and Uganda was announced.

Today’s Climatescope report, which analyzes the main Africa markets, shares further, in-depth solar details from the continent. Overall, it found that in 2014, renewable capacity increased to 4.1 GW, from 2.1 GW, of which solar accounted for 45%. Despite this, large-scale solar development has yet to take off outside South Africa, with Rwanda home to the biggest PV system – just 8.5 MW.

"One reason is that feed-in tariffs – for instance in Ghana, Nigeria and, going as far back as 2008, in Kenya – have been slow to become operational or attract investors. Another is that governments and utilities have been slow to respond to new technologies and their reductions in cost," states the report, adding, "Another still is the low capacity of the grid for utility scale additions, and the perceived difficulty of managing their variable output. This in turn presents an opportunity for off-grid clean energy technologies, especially small-scale solar coupled with battery storage."

Below are some key African solar takeaways from Climatescope:

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