Clean energy investment double that of fossil fuels last year, figures show

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Figures published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) have revealed that the amount of money invested in renewable energy was more than double the figure spent on coal and natural gas in 2015.

The UNEP data shows that close to $286 billion was spent on clean energy last year, surpassing the previous peak reached in 2011 when the world spent $278 billion on renewable power generation.

Another significant trend evident in the UNEP data showed how clean power spending in the developing world has now overtaken that of the developed world, with Europe in particular falling significantly. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) data shows that investment fell by a fifth to $49 billion last year.

However, China’s spending rose sharply to $103 billion, accounting for 36% of all clean energy investment worldwide in 2015. Investment across the U.S. clean energy sector rose by one-fifth to $44 billion, but remains significantly below China’s level of expenditure.

By sector, solar power saw investment increase 12%, according to UNEP, with more than $160 billion spent on the technology over the course of the year. Wind power also saw a slight increase – 4% – reaching $110 billion.

“Globally, we are seeing a rapid take up of renewables alongside a switch to more energy-efficient and flexible electricity systems,” Catherine Mitchell, professor of energy policy at the University of Exeter, told the Guardian. “We are looking at serious sums of money being invested in clean energy, with the dirtiest forms of fossil fuels the losers. This is the direction of travel that we need to see to have a chance of escaping the worst impacts of climate change.”

UNEP, however, warned that the “fickle” world of policy support for renewables could undermine clean energy growth, adding that the recent falls in fossil fuel prices were only beginning to be examined.