Renewable Energy Breaks Records in 2016
April 06, 2017
gigawatts of renewable energy were installed worldwide in 2016 than in
any previous year, according to a new report.
The Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2017 report shows the
costs of solar and wind energy continue to fall dramatically. But it
also documents a slowdown in investment in several major countries.
A total of 138.5 gigawatts of wind, solar, biomass and other renewable
sources were installed worldwide last year, the report says, up 8
percent from 2015.
Clean power accounted for 55 percent of all new energy generation.
That's the highest proportion ever, and the second year in a row in
which renewables made up the majority of new installations.
Investment in renewables fell by 23 percent, however. That's partly
because of good news.
"A lot of that is due to lower costs," lead author Angus McCrone, chief
editor of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, told VOA. Onshore wind power,
offshore wind and solar are by far the dominant technologies, and "all
of them fell in price by at least 10 percent. That's a big part of the
reason why you had capacity up and investment down."
But the report also documents slowdowns in some key countries, which
contributed to the decline in investment.
After 11 consecutive years of increases, China put 32 percent less into
renewables in 2016 than in 2015. That's partly because electricity
demand has not grown as much as expected. But McCrone said China's
infrastructure also had to catch up to what has been an extremely rapid
pace of renewables growth.
"Their market for building new renewable energy projects has been red
hot," he said. "There was an indigestion effect of actually getting
those connected up to the grid and making sure they were working
properly. That cooled things down."
Investments in developing countries fell by 37 percent overall, but that
masks big differences among countries. Mexico, Chile, Uruguay, South
Africa and Morocco declined by 60 percent or more. Some projects were in
the process of securing financing. Others hit delays or suffered from
On the other hand, investments in Jordan topped $1.2 billion, a 148
percent increase over 2015, and India held steady at $9.7 billion.
Renewables trump coal
Renewable investment in the United States declined by 10 percent
following a rush to build in 2015 when key tax credits were threatened.
McCrone said US prospects for renewables are still quite good, even with
the election of President Donald Trump. His strongly pro-coal rhetoric
matters "probably less than you'd think," McCrone says, because the
economics of renewables have changed since the last election.
those 4 years, wind and solar have gained massively in competitiveness
compared to other forms of generation," he said. They now compete with
coal and natural gas in a growing number of locations. The cost of
renewables set record lows in several developed and developing
Unraveling President Obama's efforts on climate change is "certainly
going to take the edge off with respect to the need for new capacity in
certain markets," said research director Frank O'Sullivan at the MIT
Energy Initiative, who was not involved in the report.
But O'Sullivan said utilities expect to rely less and less on fossil
"When it comes to making decisions about new facilities, gas is playing
a role, but increasingly renewables are the preferred options," he said.