Global renewable energy capacity grew at record speed in 2015


With the energy pendulum beginning to swing in the direction of renewables, the news of a record increase in renewable energy capacity couldn’t have come at a more welcome moment. Data released in the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) Renewable Capacity Statistics 2016 shows that capacity grew 8.3% in 2015, which makes it a record-breaking year, and the sixth consecutive year that renewable power capacity has grown at around 8%.

The 8.3% rise translates into 152 GW added, with total installed renewable generation capacity worldwide standing at 1,985 GW by the end of 2015. This figure is encouraging, and is moving the world closer towards the renewable energy targets that were set last year.

“Renewable energy deployment continues to surge in markets around the globe, even in an era of low oil and gas prices,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “Falling costs for renewable energy technologies, and a host of economic, social and environmental drivers are favoring renewables over conventional power sources.”

One of the most encouraging developments was the growth of renewable generation capacity in the less well-established nations, and often in developing countries. Central American and the Caribbean had the highest percentage increase, with growth of 14.5%, while Asia accounted for 58% of the total new renewable power generation capacity installed, with a mammoth 88 GW added, taking the continent up to 797 GW of renewable capacity.

“The significant growth rates for renewable generation capacity in developing economies are a testament to the strong business case for renewable energy,” said Mr. Amin. “Renewables are not just a solution for industrialized countries, they are also powering economic growth in the fastest growing economies in the developing world."

Overall, 19 countries installed over 1 GW of renewable capacity, while less established markets took their first steps towards clean energy.

A good year for solar

Solar energy was one of the big winners of 2015, with a total of $161bn invested over the course of the year. This significant investment led to an additional 47 GW of solar capacity added worldwide, representing a huge 26% increase.

One of the driving forces behind this amplified investment and capacity growth was a large reduction in the costs of solar PV technology, with price drops up to 80% for PV modules. Thanks to the swift capacity growth of solar during 2015, total solar capacity at the end of the year was 227 GW.

By far the most pronounced protagonists of this growth were in Asia, where China added 15 GW of new solar capacity and Japan added 10 GW of new solar capacity, which was the bulk of the contribution towards a 48% increase in solar capacity in Asia. Solar capacity in Asia is now almost as large as that of Europe, who had previously led the way for the solar industry, but has stalled somewhat recently. There were also encouraging early signs for the development of solar markets in Oceania and Africa, adding almost 2 GW of solar capacity between them.

While IRENA applauded the increased efforts made in 2015, it has called on nations to use this as a platform to build upon, and to accelerate global investment in renewable energies two-fold by 2030. Should these trends continue and IRENA’s REmap be adopted, the organization forecasts global renewable energy capacity to reach over 6,000 GW by 2030, with solar PV alone to have a capacity of 1,760 GW.

“This impressive growth, coupled with a record $286 billion invested in renewables in 2015, sends a strong signal to investors and policymakers that renewable energy is now the preferred option for new power generation capacity around the world,” added Amin.

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