15 May 2017 2017 08:15 AM GMT

Overall Investment Down But Global Renewable Capacity Surges To Record Levels

As the cost of clean technology continues to fall, the world added record levels of renewable energy capacity in 2016, at an investment level 23 percent lower than the previous year, according to new research published by UN Environment, the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2017 finds that wind, solar, biomass and waste-to-energy, geothermal, small hydro and marine sources added 138.5 gigawatts to global power capacity in 2016, up 8 percent from the 127.5 gigawatts added the year before. The added generating capacity roughly equals that of the world’s 16 largest existing power producing facilities combined. Investment in renewables capacity was roughly double that in fossil fuel generation; the corresponding new capacity from renewables was equivalent to 55 percent of all new power, the highest to date. The proportion of electricity coming from renewables excluding large hydro rose from 10.3 per cent to 11.3 per cent. This prevented the emission of an estimated 1.7 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide.

The total investment was $241.6 billion (excluding large hydro), the lowest since 2013. This was in large part a result of falling costs: the average dollar capital expenditure per megawatt for solar photovoltaics and wind dropped by over 10 per cent. “Ever-cheaper clean tech provides a real opportunity for investors to get more for less,” said Erik Solheim, Executive Director of UN Environment. “This is exactly the kind of situation, where the needs of profit and people meet, that will drive the shift to a better world for all.”

New investment in solar totalled $113.7 billion, down 34 percent from the record high in 2015. Solar capacity additions, however, rose to an all-time high of 75 gigawatts. Wind made up $112.5 billion of investment globally, down 9 percent; wind capacity additions fell to 54 gigawatts from the previous year’s high of 63 gigawatts. “The investor hunger for existing wind and solar farms is a strong signal for the world to move to renewables,” said Prof. Dr Udo Steffens, President of Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, commenting on record acquisition activity in the clean power sector, which rose 17 percent to $110.2 billion.

While much of the drop in financing was due to reduced technology costs, the report documented a slowdown in China, Japan, and some emerging markets, for a variety of reasons. Renewable energy investment in developing countries fell 30 percent to $117 billion, while that in developed economies dropped 14 percent to $125 billion. China saw investment drop 32 percent to $78.3 billion, breaking an 11-year rising trend. Mexico, Chile, Uruguay, South Africa and Morocco all saw falls of 60 per cent or more, due to slower than expected growth in electricity demand, and delays to auctions and financings. Jordan was one of the few new markets to buck the trend, investment there rising 148 percent to $1.2 billion.

The US saw commitments slip 10 percent to $46.4 billion, as developers took their time to build out projects to benefit from the five-year extension of the tax credit system. Japan slumped 56 percent to $14.4 billion. “The question always used to be ‘will renewables ever be grid competitive?’,” said Michael Liebreich, Chairman of the Advisory Board at BNEF. “Well, after the dramatic cost reductions of the past few years, unsubsidised wind and solar can provide the lowest cost new electrical power in an increasing number of countries, even in the developing world – sometimes by a factor of two.” “It’s a whole new world: even though investment is down, annual installations are still up; instead of having to subsidise renewables, now authorities may have to subsidise natural gas plants to help them provide grid reliability.”

Recent figures from the International Energy Agency cited the switch to renewables as one of the main reasons for greenhouse gas emissions staying flat in 2016, for the third year running, even though output in the global economy rose by 3.1 per cent. Investment in renewables did not drop across the board. Europe enjoyed a 3 per cent increase to $59.8 billion, led by the UK ($24 billion) and Germany ($13.2 billion). Offshore wind ($25.9 billion) dominated Europe’s investment, up 53 per cent thanks to mega-arrays such as the 1.2 gigawatt Hornsea project in the North Sea, estimated to cost $5.7 billion. China also invested $4.1 billion in offshore wind, its highest figure to date.

Another positive sign came in winning bids for solar and wind in auctions around the world, at tariffs that would have seemed inconceivably low a few years ago. The records set last year were $29.10 per megawatt hour for solar in Chile and $30 per megawatt hour for onshore wind in Morocco. Additional highlights included purchases of assets such as wind farms and solar parks reached a new high, $72.7 billion and corporate takeovers reached $27.6 billion, 58 per cent more than 2015. The smaller sectors had mixed fortunes in terms of new investment. Biofuels fell 37 percent to $2.2 billion, the lowest for at least 13 years; biomass and waste held steady at $6.8 billion and small hydro at $3.5 billion. Geothermal rallied 17 percent to $2.7 billion. Marine edged down 7 percent to $194 million.

Sitting two different technologies in the same location – to make use of shared land, grid connections, and maintenance, and to reduce intermittency – is growing. Some 5.6 gigawatts of these ‘hybrid’ projects have been built or are under development worldwide. The Ramanathapuram solar complex in India, billed as the world’s largest ever solar voltaic project (648 megawatts), was constructed. The report in full can be downloaded at fs-unep-centre.org.

October 17th 2017
Grids Integration, Energy Networks Boosted By Distributed Generation Growth

Renewable energy has continued to develop at ever increasing rates, with remarkable growth seen since the start of this decade. The pace of the energy transition is driving innovation and growth in related sectors. For energy networks and grids integrating small gas turbines, micro-turbines, fuel cells, biomass, small hydropower, wind and solar energy; distributed generation installation provides significant solutions in the restructured electricity regime. This is particularly so, where there is a larger uncertainty in demand and supply.

October 16th 2017
Uganda Inaugurates Breakthrough Tororo PV Plant. A Future Model For Africa?

Production has commenced at the Tororo PV power plant; which, with 16 GWh of renewable energy generated annually, will cater for the energy requirements of 35,838 people and help reduce CO2 emissions by 7,200 tons. Overall, $19.6 million was invested to build the 10 MWp plant, with the engagement of several major organisations including KfW and FMO Development Banks, the World Bank and the EU. Attilio Pacifici, EU Ambassador said, “One of the key objectives of this plan is to encourage private sector participation in higher risk investments and we’re happy to demonstrate that Uganda is well positioned to be successful and a good model for replication.”

October 10th 2017
Enel Starts Construction Of Australia’s Largest Solar PV Project

The Bungala Solar One facility is part of the Bungala Solar PV Project and will have an installed capacity of 137.7 MW out of a total of more than 275 MW for the whole project, that will be able to produce 570 GWh per year. The facility will cover an area of approximately 300 hectares and will consist of about 420,000 polycrystalline PV modules mounted on single-axis tracker structures which will follow the Sun’s path from east to west; increasing the amount of energy produced by the plant, compared to PV modules with fixed structures. The overall Bungala Solar PV project is expected to become fully operational in early 2019.

October 16th 2017
Nordex Adds To Successes In Argentina, Winning 100 MW Pomona Wind Farm Order

The Nordex Group has added a further chapter to its success story in Argentina with an order for 26 N131/3900 turbines for the “Pomona” wind farm. The contract will be executed on a full EPC basis, including civil and electrical engineering, procurement, construction and manufacturing, delivery and installation of the wind turbines. Preparations for construction will be commencing in 2017, after which the wind power systems will be installed at the beginning of 2019. In addition, a ten-year full operation and maintenance contract has also been signed. 


 

   

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