According to UNEP”s “Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investments” report for 2014, global investments in renewable energy rebounded strongly last year, registering a solid 17% increase after two years of declines. Major expansion of solar installations in China and Japan and record investments in offshore wind projects in Europe helped propel global 2014 investments to $270 billion.
The 103Gw of generating capacity added around the world made 2014 the best year ever for newly installed capacity, according to the report, which was prepared by the Frankfurt School-UNEP Centre, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
A continuing sharp decline in technology costs – particularly in solar but also in wind – means that every dollar invested in renewable energy bought significantly more generating capacity in 2014. The 103GW of capacity added by new renewable energy sources last year compares to 86GW in 2013, 89GW in 2012 and 81GW in 2011.
Wind, solar, biomass and waste-to-power, geothermal, small hydro and marine power contributed an estimated 9.1% of world electricity generation in 2014, up from 8.5% in 2013.
“Once again in 2014, renewables made up nearly half of the net power capacity added worldwide” says Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNEP. “These climate-friendly energy technologies are now an indispensable component of the global energy mix and their importance will only increase as markets mature, technology prices continue to fall and the need to rein in carbon emissions becomes ever more urgent.”
China saw by far the biggest renewable energy investments last year – a record $83.3 billion, up 39% from 2013. The US was second at $38.3 billion, up 7% on the year (though this is below its all-time high reached in 2011). Third came Japan, at $35.7 billion, 10% higher than in 2013 and its biggest total ever.
A salient feature of the 2014 result was the rapid expansion of renewables into new markets in developing countries, where investments jumped 36% to $131.3 billion. China with $83.3 billion, Brazil ($7.6 billion), India ($7.4 billion) and South Africa ($5.5 billion) were all in the top 10 investing countries, while more than $1 billion was invested in Indonesia, Chile, Mexico, Kenya and Turkey.
In contrast, the total renewables investment in developed economies rose only 3% to $138.9 billion. Even accounting for the booming offshore wind sector, investments in Europe hardly changed at $57.5 billion.