Thursday, March 24, 2016

Worldwide Renewable Energy Investment Hits a New Record

This aerial view shows a solar plant of Ouarzazate, central Morocco. It is one of the world’s biggest solar plants. Africa is one of the most promising markets for renewable energy over the next 10-20 years, with its growing population, urgent need for new generating capacity, lack of electricity , and its natural resources in sunshine. (Credit: AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar) Click to Enlarge.
Renewable energy investment set a new world record in 2015, with emerging economies led by China topping the investment of developed nations for the first time, according to a United Nations-backed report unveiled Thursday.

Last year, the world invested $286 billion in green energy — some 3 percent more than the last record set in 2011 — mostly on wind and solar, according to the report, put together by the Frankfurt School and United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).  On the other hand, coal and gas-fired electricity generation drew less than half the investment made in solar, wind, and other renewables.

“China is by far in the lead, but you also have quite a few others,” Eric Usher, head of UNEP Finance Initiative, told ThinkProgress.  “In the lead table of the top 10 countries, six of them are in developing countries … so we see a transition taking place.”  China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is responsible for about a third of worldwide investment, or $102.9 billion.  The United States, the second largest emitter, is a distant second with $44.1 billion — 20 percent less than it invested in 2014.

Other countries in the top 10 list include Chile, Mexico, South Africa, Brazil, and India.  Were it not for renewables — excluding hydro energy — annual global CO2 emissions would have been about 1.5 metric gigatons higher in 2015, the report notes.  Global CO2 emissions were projected to be 15 metric gigatons, Climate Central reported.  “The policy environments have been getting more solid and investors are responding,” Usher said.

The report comes at a time of increased attention to renewable energy and points to a shift in investing trends.  Many see renewables as the main way for energy-hungry nations to maintain economic growth and at the same time curtail dangerous CO2 emissions that contribute to climate change.  Though the agreement in Paris boosted the case for renewables, this transition is not necessarily driven by ideology as much as by opportunity and need.  China’s embrace of wind and solar, for example, has come as the country faces deadly pollution levels.  Other developing countries like India, Brazil, and Mexico are juggling similar problems in their megacities.  Moreover, emerging economies face fast-rising electricity demands at a time when renewable energy technology is getting cheaper.

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