Global renewable energy growth hits new record

The global renewable energy industry had a record-breaking year in 2015, according to the REN21 2016 Renewables Global Status Report, with 147GW of renewable generating capacity added worldwide – the largest year-on-year increase ever.

The report, published last week, shows that wind energy was the leading source of new power generating capacity in Europe and the US in 2015, and the second largest in China, with a record global total of 63GW added for the year, taking the cumulative total to about 433GW.

This is because it is so cheap. Indeed, the report lists Australia as one of the many markets worldwide where wind power was the most cost-effective option for new grid-based power in 2015.

The solar PV market was the second biggest contributor, up 25 per cent from 2014 to 50GW – another record – lifting the global total to 227GW.

Interestingly, the report notes that the annual solar PV market in 2015 was nearly 10 times the world’s cumulative solar PV capacity of a decade earlier. While Australia  – which makes the ranks of the year’s top 10 PV installers – ended the year with the equivalent of one solar panel per inhabitant.

Concentrating solar thermal, meanwhile, grew its global capacity by 10 per cent in 2015, to a total of nearly 4.8GW, the report says, with Morocco (160MW), South Africa (150 MW) and the United
States (110MW) all bringing new CSP facilities online over the course of the year.

And global investment in renewables also climbed to a record new level of $US286 billion for the year – an amount that was achieved, the report notes, “in spite of the plunge in fossil fuel prices, the strength of the US dollar…, the continued weakness of the European economy” and further declines solar and wind costs.

“For the sixth consecutive year, renewables outpaced fossil fuels for net investment in power capacity additions,” the report says – growth driven “first and foremost” by the fact that renewables are now cost competitive with fossil fuels in many markets.

Australia rates a few mentions in the report, most notably for making the top 10 countries for installation of rooftop solar PV.

And on the subject of behind-the-meter battery storage, the report says the sector “took a great step forward in 2015 with some high profile announcements” and a host of companies competing for a small but rapidly growing market.

“Such markets are developing in Australia, Germany, Japan, parts of the United States and elsewhere, particularly in combination with small-scale solar PV,” it said.

© 2016 Solar Choice Pty Ltd