Last year, 59 percent of capacity addition in the global power industry came from renewable energy. Also, the number of countries with renewable energy targets rose to 164 — an increase by 20 — in the year. The sector received an overall investment of $301 billion.
The findings were part of Worldwatch Institute–Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) annual Renewables Global Status Report (RGSR). The report was released recently at the Vienna Energy Forum.
Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington DC and REN21 is a global renewable energy policy multi-stakeholder network.
According to the RGSR, 135 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity was added globally last year, taking the total installed capacity of renewables to 1,712 gigawatts.
The figure was an increase of 8.5 percent from the year before and for the “first time in four decades the world economy grew without a parallel rise in CO2 emissions”.
Although the world’s average annual energy consumption continued to increase at 1.5 percent and GDP grew at average 3 percent, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2014 were unchanged from 2013 levels, the RGSR notes.
The global reduction in greenhouse gas has been attributed in large measure to an increased use of renewable resources in China. Also countries in the OECD are promoting more sustainable growth, including the increased use of energy efficiency and renewable energy.
An observation in the report is that at least 145 countries now have supportive policies for the development of renewable energy, which is an increase from the 138 countries reported in the previous year. Wind, solar photovoltaic (PV), and hydro sources together increased capacity by 128 GW from the levels in 2013.
The growth took the share of renewable energy capacity in the global energy mix to 27.7 percent toward the end of 2014. It is estimated to be adequate to supply an estimated 22.8 percent of global electricity demand.
And compared with levels in 2004, the solar PV sector has shown capacity addition at the rate of 48 times from 3.7 GW to 177 GW. Wind power capacity, meanwhile, showed nearly 8-fold increase over the same period from 48 GW to 370 GW.
According to the RGSR, new investment in global renewable power and fuels sector excluding hydropower projects above 50 MW capacity increased by 17 percent over 2013. The investment touched $270.2 billion.
Also developing countries contributed $131.3 billion to the development of renewables, which is a 36 percent increase from the previous year. Developed countries invested $138.9 billion in 2014, up only 3 percent from 2013.
RGSR notes that among developing countries clean energy development by China accounted for 63 percent of the global investment. And Chile, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey each invested more than $1 billion in renewable energy.
Christine Lins, the executive secretary of REN21, said: “Creating a level playing field would strengthen the development and use of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. Removing fossil-fuel and nuclear subsidies globally would make it evident that renewables are the cheapest energy option.”
The renewables sector has also led to a concomitant increase in employment. In 2014, about 7.7 million people worldwide worked directly or indirectly in the sector.