Solar energy dominated global investment in new power generation like never before in 2017.
The world installed a record 98 gigawatts of new solar capacity, far more than the net additions of any other technology – renewable, fossil fuel or nuclear.
Solar power also attracted far more investment ($160.8 billion – up 18%) than any other technology. It made up 57% of last year’s $279.8 billion total for all renewables (excluding large hydro), and it towered above new investment in coal and gas generation capacity, estimated at $103 billion.
A driving power behind last year’s surge in solar was China, where an unprecedented boom saw some 53 gigawatts added – more than half the global total – and $86.5 billion invested, up 58%.
‘The world added more solar capacity than coal, gas, and nuclear plants combined. This shows where we are heading, although the fact that renewables altogether are still far from providing the majority of electricity means that we still have a long way to go.’
President of Frankfurt School of Finance & Management
The Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2018 report, released by UN Environment, Frankfurt School – UNEP Collaborating Centre, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, finds that falling costs for solar electricity, and to some extent wind power, is continuing to drive deployment.
Last year was the eighth in a row in which global investment in renewables exceeded $200 billion – and since 2004, the world has invested $2.9 trillion in these green energy sources.
‘The extraordinary surge in solar investment shows how the global energy map is changing and, more importantly, what the economic benefits are of such a shift. Investments in renewables bring more people into the economy, they deliver more jobs, better quality jobs and better paid jobs. Clean energy also means less pollution, which means healthier, happier development.’
UN Environment head
Overall, China was by far the world’s largest investing country in renewables, at a record $126.6 billion – up 31% on 2016.
There were also sharp increases in investment in Australia (up 147% to $8.5 billion), Mexico (up 810% to $6 billion), and Sweden (up 127% to $3.7 billion).
A record 157 gigawatts of renewable power were commissioned last year, up from 143 gigawatts in 2016 and far outstripping the net 70 gigawatts of fossil-fuel generating capacity added (after adjusting for the closure of some existing plants) over the same period.
Some big markets, however, saw declines in investment in renewables. In the United States, investment dropped 6%, coming in at $40.5 billion. In Europe there was a fall of 36%, to $40.9 billion, with big drops in the United Kingdom (down 65% to $7.6 billion) and Germany (down 35% to $10.4 billion). Investment in Japan slipped 28% to $13.4 billion.
‘In countries that saw lower investment, it generally reflected a mixture of changes in policy support, the timing of large project financings, such as in offshore wind, and lower capital costs per megawatt.’
Chief editor of Bloomberg New Energy Finance and lead author of the report
Global investments in renewable energy of $2.7 trillion from 2007 to 2017 (11 years inclusive) have increased the proportion of world electricity generated by wind, solar, biomass and waste-to-energy, geothermal, marine and small hydro from 5.2% to 12.1%.
The current level of electricity generated by renewables corresponds to about 1.8 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions avoided – roughly equivalent to those produced by the entire US transport system.
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