New solar, wind and hydropower sources were added in 2015 at the fastest rate the world has yet seen, a study says.

Investments in renewables during the year were more than double the amount spent on new coal and gas-fired power plants, the Renewables Global Status Report found.

For the first time, emerging economies spent more than the rich on renewable power and fuels.

Over 8 million people are now working in renewable energy worldwide.

For a number of years, the global spend on renewables has been increasing and 2015 saw that arrive at a new peak according to the report.

Falling costs key

About 147 gigawatts (GW) of capacity was added in 2015, roughly equivalent to Africa’s generating capacity from all sources.

China, the US, Japan, UK and India were the countries adding on the largest share of green power, despite the fact that fossil fuel prices have fallen significantly. The costs of renewables have also fallen, say the authors.

“The fact that we had 147GW of capacity, mainly of wind and solar is a clear indication that these technologies are cost competitive (with fossil fuels),” said Christine Lins, who is executive secretary of REN21, an international body made up of energy experts, government representatives and NGOs, who produced the report.

“They are the preference for many countries and more and more utilities and investors and that is a very positive signal.”

Investment in renewables reached $286bn worldwide in 2015.

With China accounting for more than one-third of the global total, the developing countries outspent the richer nations on renewables for the first time.

When measured against a country’s GDP, the biggest investors were small countries like Mauritania, Honduras, Uruguay and Jamaica.

“It clearly shows that the costs have come down so much that the emerging economies are now really focussing on renewables,” said Christine Lins.

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