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Renewables train has ‘left the station’

Record green energy capacity added in 2016 as cost of renewables plunges
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Renewables train has ‘left the station’

The world is now adding more green energy capacity each year than it adds in new capacity from all fossil fuels combined, a United Nations-backed report has revealed, showing that the ‘renewables train has already left the station’ and that those who ignore it will be left behind.

Last year, renewable power instalments increased by 9% over 2015 to nearly 2,017 gigawatts. Solar photovoltaic accounted for around 47% of the total additions, followed by wind power at 34% and hydropower at 15.5%, according to the report.

‘We all want a healthy environment and healthy people, and clean energy is central to the solution.’

ERIK SOLHEIM
Head of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)

$250 billion invested

As the shift to clean power continues, renewables are becoming the least costly option. Recent examples in Denmark, Egypt, India, Mexico, Peru and the United Arab Emirates show that energy has been delivered well below the equivalent costs for fossil fuel and nuclear energy in each of these countries.

‘The world is adding more renewable power capacity each year than it adds in new capacity from all fossil fuels combined.’

ARTHOUROS ZERVOS
Chair of the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21)

For the fifth consecutive year, investment in new renewables (including all hydropower) was roughly double the investment in fossil fuel generating capacity, reaching about $250 billion.

‘As the share of renewables grows we will need investment in infrastructure as well as a comprehensive set of tools’, Mr Zervos pointed out. To enable further growth he calls for integrated and interconnected transmission and distribution networks, measures to balance supply and demand, sector coupling (for example the integration of power and transport networks) as well as the deployment of a wide range of enabling technologies.

‘we need to move faster’

A world that does not run on fossil fuels is no longer a distant dream thanks to the exponential growth in solar and wind – yet investments in renewables are diametrically different.

The UN agency warned that the energy transition is not happening fast enough to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

‘This new report shows where we are on this journey, and the data is clear: we need to move faster.’

ERIK SOLHEIM
Head of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)

The global cost for the newly added renewable energy capacity is set at about $242 billion. Compared with the previous year, it is actually a 23% reduction in investment, with the biggest falls among developing and emerging market countries. At the same time, nuclear and fossil fuel subsidies continue to dramatically exceed those for renewable technologies. These subsidies continue to impede progress, said UNEP.

A race against time

By the end of 2016, more than 50 countries had committed to phasing out fossil fuel subsidies; some reforms have occurred, but not enough. In 2014 the ratio of fossil fuel subsidies to renewable energy subsidies was 4:1. For every dollar spent on renewables, governments spent four dollars on perpetuating the dependence on fossil fuels.

‘The world is in a race against time. The single most important thing we could do to reduce CO2 emissions quickly and cost-effectively, is phase out coal and speed up investments in energy efficiency and renewables. [The] withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement is unfortunate. But the renewables train has already left the station and those who ignore renewables’ central role in climate mitigation risk being left behind.’

CHRISTINE LINS
Executive Secretary of REN21

Energy is crucial for achieving almost all of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), from its role in the eradication of poverty through advancements in health, education, water supply and industrialisation, to combating climate change.

Click here to read the Global Status Report on renewables (GSR2017) from REN21.

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