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.

December 12th 2017
Global Trade In Biofuels Featured At International Renewable Mobility Conference

A significant proportion of global energy use, is in transportation. Action is crucially needed to bring about an energy turnaround in this sector and it’s a topic that has moved higher up the political agenda again since Dieselgate, and with growing calls for a rapid introduction of electromobility. In Germany, the Working Group on Energy Balances (AG Energiebilanzen) has calculated the final energy consumption of 728 TWh by the transport sector in 2016. Data from the German Environment Agency (UBA) reveals that over 90 percent of fuel deployed is derived from mineral oil. World-leading experts meeting in a parallel forum at the 15th International Conference on Renewable Mobility will analyse biofuel trading worldwide, examining various perspectives on requirements, the current state of play and forecasts.

December 12th 2017
Renewable Future Challenges UK And Germany To Build Flexibility In Power Systems

A new economic study highlights that future energy systems in the UK and Germany, with very high levels of variable renewable generation, must be complemented by flexible resources, including energy storage. The study was released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). “This study highlights a seismic shift in how power systems will operate in the future. As wind and solar become the cheapest options for power generation, the race is on to develop and deploy the flexible resources that will complement them,” said Albert Cheung, head of global analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

December 8th 2017
Tata Power Solar Commissions India’s First Rooftop Solar Carport In Delhi

Tata Power Solar set another landmark by commissioning an unprecedented rooftop solar project in India – a solar carport on the rooftop of the sprawling 70,000 sq.m Unity One mall, in Rohini, Delhi. The unique rooftop carport is estimated to set off 438 tonnes of carbon emissions annually. The company won the bid in an open tender process fielded by Delhi Metro Rail Corporation for multi-level car parking. The project enables the mall to earn on the unused and excess solar electricity produced. It also cuts down the need to install a second meter or an expensive battery storage system as it is directly connected to the local power grid.

December 8th 2017
By 2036, Clean Energy Can Account for 37% of The Energy Mix For Thailand

With a stronger and more ambitious energy development plan, Thailand’s share of renewable energy in total final energy consumption could surpass its national target by a quarter and reach more than 37 percent by 2036, according to a new report published by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the Ministry of Energy of Thailand. Renewable Energy Outlook: Thailand finds that decreasing imports of fossil fuels and increasing the share of renewables in the energy mix to 37 percent would improve energy security and reduce the cost of Thailand’s energy system by USD 1.2 billion annually by 2036.


 

   

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