March 31st, 2015 by Sandy Dechert
This morning the United Nations Environment Program released its 9th annual report on Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment. The news is very good: 2014 was the best year ever for newly installed renewable capacity. The Frankfurt School–UNEP Collaborating Centre and Bloomberg New Energy Finance prepared the report.
In spite of the 50+% collapse in oil prices toward the end of last year, global investments in renewable energy scored big, with a 17% increase from 2013. (Largely due to lower cleantech prices resulting from economies of scale, the numbers had previously declined for two years.) Global 2014 investments reached $270 billion, 17% up from the 2013 total of $232 billion and only 3% below the 2011 all-time record ($279 billion).
Unprecedented solar expansion in China (mostly utility-scale projects over 1 MW) and Japan (smaller-scale projects) — comprising around half the world total — and strongest-ever investments in European offshore wind propelled the surge. In fact, solar and wind accounted for over 90% of all investment.
- Solar rose by a whopping 25% to $149.6 billion, its second-highest year ever, adding a record 46 GW of capacity.
- Wind rose by 11% to a record $99.5 billion, adding 49 GW, another record.
- Geothermal investments also rose, having a 27% increase to $2.7 billion. Biofuels, biomass, waste-to-energy, and small hydro all dropped somewhat.
Measured in terms of more conventional power, the record 103 GW of added renewable capacity equals approximately the same output capacity as all 158 nuclear power plant reactors in the United States. The figure compares to 86 GW in 2013, 89 GW in 2012, and 81 GW in 2011.
Harvard Extension School
Global Climate Change