Global Bioenergy Perspectives: the REN21 Renewables 2017 Global Status Report
Newly installed renewable power capacity set new records in 2016, with 161 gigawatts (GW) added, increasing the global total by almost 9 percent relative to 2015, says the REN21 Renewables 2017 Global Status Report. The UNEP-hosted multi-stakeholder network reported that for the fifth consecutive year, investment in new renewables (including all hydropower) was roughly double the investment in fossil fuel generating capacity, reaching about USD 250 billion.
"The world now adds more renewable power capacity annually than it adds in net new capacity from all fossil fuels combined", said Arthouros Zervos, Chair of the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21).
As the shift to clean energy continues, renewables are becoming the least costly option as recent examples in Denmark, Egypt, India, Mexico, Peru and the United Arab Emirates show that energy has been delivered well below the equivalent costs for fossil fuel and nuclear energy in each of these countries.
Global energy-related CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and industry remained stable for a third year in a row despite a 3 percent growth in the global economy and an increased demand for energy. This is due primarily to the decline of coal, but also to the growth in renewable energy capacity and to improvements in energy efficiency.
A paradigm shift is under way in the developing world, where billions of people still live without access to electricity (around 1.2 billion) and/or clean cooking facilities (around 2.7 billion). The cumbersome process of providing electricity access through grid extension alone is becoming obsolete as new business models and technologies enable the development of off-grid markets. Markets for mini-grids and stand-alone systems are evolving rapidly and Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) business models, supported by mobile technology, are exploding.
Despite these positive trends, the energy transition is not happening fast enough to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. With the right policies in place, the power sector could be emissions-free by mid-century, but the distinction between “electricity” and “energy” is often confused in the public discourse; the energy market actually comprises three major segments: electricity, transport, and heating and cooling. Progress in the transport and heating and cooling sectors lags well behind the tremendous growth of renewables in the power sector. Neither is it happening as fast as possible: although global investment in new renewable power and fuel capacity was roughly double that in fossil fuels, investments in new renewable energy installations were down 23 percent compared to 2015. Among developing and emerging market countries, renewable energy investment fell 30 percent, to USD 116.6 billion, while that of developed countries fell 14 percent to USD 125 billion. Investment continues to be heavily focused on wind and solar PV, however renewable energy technologies need to be deployed in order to keep global warming well below 2C.
“The world is in a race against time. The most important thing we could do to reduce CO2 emissions quickly and cost-effectively, is phase out coal and speed up investments in energy efficiency and renewables" said Christine Lins, executive secretary of REN21.
Energy is crucial for achieving almost all of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), from its role in the eradication of poverty through advancements in health, education, water supply and industrialization, to combating climate change.
Read more about the Ren21 Report