Published: Fri, April 06, 2018
Medical | By Johnnie Horton

Solar is fastest growing source of new energy

Solar is fastest growing source of new energy

The country accounted for almost half of all renewable energy investments worldwide, pumping $86.5 billion into solar energy alone in 2017 in what the report described as "an extraordinary solar boom".

Investors worldwide plowed a record $161 billion into solar energy past year, more than half the investment in all renewables apart from large hydroelectric projects, according to the Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment report, jointly published Thursday by the United Nations and Bloomberg New Energy Finance energy investment and carbon markets firm.

"The extraordinary surge in solar investment, around the world, shows how much can be achieved when we commit to growth without harming the environment", said United Nations environment chief Erik Solheim.

Last year, wind and solar saw an unprecedented growth as global energy demand increased, while based on improved efficiencies and cost reductions across a global scale, solar PV and onshore wind power were 18% more competitive. That figure represents 57 percent of the $279.8 billion spent on renewables excluding large-scale hydropower plants past year.

China was a primary contributor to the expansion of solar energy, adding 53 gigawatts - more than half the global total - and investing $86.5 billion, up 58 percent.

In its bid to no longer be seen as the world's worst polluter, China invested $127 billion in renewable energy a year ago.

Elsewhere in the report, China was confirmed once again as the largest renewables market, with investment up 31 per cent on 2016 levels to hit $126.6bn.

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A record 157 GW of renewable power were commissioned past year, up from 143 GW in 2016 and far out-stripping the net 70 GW of fossil-fuel generating capacity added (after adjusting for the closure of some existing plants) over the same period.

"The markets are there and renewables can compete with coal, they can compete with oil and gas", he added.

However, US renewables investment fell six per cent to $40.5bn, while in Europe investment fell 36 per cent to $40.9bn, largely due to changes in policy support and the timing of development cycles for large projects.

Overall, global investments in renewables of US$2.7 trillion from 2007 to 2017 (11 years inclusive) have increased the proportion of world electricity generated by wind, solar, biomass and waste-to-energy, geothermal, marine and small hydro from 5.2 % to 12.1%. It is historically the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, though, and its investments in renewables went down slightly in 2017, according to the report, to $40.5 billion. "This shows where we are heading, although the fact that renewables altogether are still far from providing the majority of electricity means that we still have a long way to go". Investment in Japan fell 28 percent to $13.4 billion.

Sources of solar, wind, biomass and other renewable sources generated 12.1 percent of global electricity in 2017, up from 5.2 percent in the previous decade, according to Erik Solheim.

The current level of electricity generated by renewables corresponds to about 1.8 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions avoided - roughly equivalent to those produced by the entire USA transport system.

The report was funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.

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