Investments quadruple renewable energy capacity over last decade

According to research from the UN Environment Programme, the past decade has seen renewable energy capacity quadruple from 414 GW to 1,650 GW. This is due to the significant increases in renewable energy investment in the past 10 years, which is on course to reach $2.6trn. These figures do not take large hydro energy projects into account, meaning that the expansion in capacity has resulted from other renewable sources like wind and solar.

Solar energy has played the most significant role in the increase, as it benefited from half of the total renewable energy investments ($1.3trn). The report claims that solar alone will have grown from a capacity of 25 GW in 2010 to 663 GW by the end of 2019. This is enough energy to power 100 million average American homes annually. Solar energy is predicted to account for the largest portion of newly installed power capacity throughout the decade, with 638 GW, followed by coal at 529 GW, wind at 487 GW and gas at 438 GW. This is largely due to the decreasing cost of photo-voltaic solar energy, which has dropped by over 80 per cent since 2009.

The report has claimed that the renewable sector in 2018 made up 12.9 per cent of the global energy market share, up from 11.6 per cent the previous year. Despite increasing market share for renewables, global power sector emissions have risen over the past decade.

China has been the biggest investor in the sector over the past decade, and remained so in 2018, though the year saw decreases in Chinese renewable investments, and increases in the amount of international investors spending over £1bn, from 21 in 2016 to 29 in 2018. China however, has also been identified as one of the world’s largest polluters, as its coal industry continues to make up 60 per cent of the country’s fuel mix.

The report calls the increases in renewable investment and capacity “huge and lasting progress” but maintains that the pace must increase: “Renewables are now firmly embedded in the power generation sector but only represent 26.3 per cent of total electricity produced – 12.9 per cent if we exclude large hydro.” Despite the industry’s growth, the report claims that fossil fuel subsidies and relaxed regulations have slowed progress. Global power sector emissions are predicted to have risen by at least 10 per cent over the past decade. As energy demand continues to rise, aggregate emissions will continue to increase if the renewable sector does not make up a larger portion of market share.

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