2015 sets new records for renewable energy across the board
We’ve already reported about the renewable energy records broken (Best Year For British Wind Energy) by the UK during 2015 but it appears that this is part of a global trend. According to a recent report published by REN21, last year saw records set across the world both in terms of investment in and new installations of renewable energy projects.
It is estimated that global renewable power generation increased by 147 gigawatts (GW) during 2015 which is the biggest annual increase ever. It also means that the world’s production of renewable energy has now overtaken fossil fuels.
During the same period investment in renewable energy reached $286bn (£196 billion) and this eye-watering figure does not include the additional funding provided for large hydropower schemes and heating and cooling technologies. According to the same report, adding in those figures would significantly increase this total.
Encouragingly all of this growth occurred during a period in which fossil fuel prices fell to all-time lows and before the new global agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions was made in Paris last December.
The report states the UK was the 4th largest investor in renewable power and fuels. The UK was also 4th in terms of adding solar power capacity – with only China, the US and Japan ahead of them – even though the UK Government has announced they planned to make major cuts to solar subsidies.
In Scotland renewables provided half of the country’s energy demands while across the UK the overall renewable output rose to a record high and, during the last quarter of the year, overhauled coal for the very first time.
Biogas, renewable gas made from organic material including food and farming waste, also showed strong growth in the UK despite concerns that the Government could cut subsidies for this source in the way they have for solar power.
REN21 went on to say that by early 2016, 173 of countries within the UN had set renewable energy targets and of those 146 now have policies in place to support the achievement of those targets with an estimated 8.1m people now working in the sector across the world. This was slightly tempered by the report’s claim that support for renewables appears to have weakened.
In the report the executive secretary of REN21, Christine Lins, said:
“What is truly remarkable about these results is that they were achieved at a time when fossil fuel prices were at historic lows, and renewables remained at a significant disadvantage in terms of government subsidies.”
Ms. Lins’ statement highlighted the fact that there are still major challenges to overcome if the world is going to continue to move away from traditional fossil fuels adding that “for every dollar spent boosting renewables, nearly four dollars were spent to maintain our dependence on fossil fuels.” Aside from the imbalance in production spend these challenges include improving integrating larger amounts into the international grid, continued instability in policy and politics and barriers in regulatory and financial constraints.
Arthouros Zervos, chairman of REN21, agreed:
“The renewables train is barrelling down the tracks, but it’s running on 20th century infrastructure … to accelerate the transition to a healthier, more secure and climate-safe future, we need to build the equivalent of a high-speed rail network – a smarter, more flexible system that maximises the use of variable sources of renewable energy, and accommodates decentralised and community-based generation.”
If you require any legal advice on any aspect of renewable energy, get in touch with one of our energy & utilities lawyers today. We have solicitors in Preston, Lancaster, Garstang, Kendal and Clitheroe. You can contact our head Preston office on 01772 258321.