2015 saw a record addition of 147 gigawatts (GW) of renewable power worldwide and investment of around $286 billion, a report released Wednesday said, lauding the achievement which came at a time when fossil fuel prices were at historic lows.
It also said that even though China accounts for more than one third of the global total, developing countries surpassed developed countries in total renewable energy investments for the first time during the year.
The 'Renewables 2016 Global Status Report' also emphasised that renewables are now firmly established as competitive, mainstream sources of energy in many countries around the world and highlighted that about 8.1 million people are now working in the renewable energy sector.
The report was published by REN21, an international non-profit association, which is also a global multi-stakeholder network having over 700 renewable energy, energy access and energy efficiency experts.
"2015 was a record year for renewable energy installations. Renewable power generating capacity saw its largest increase ever, with an estimated 147 gigawatts (GW) added. Modern renewable heat capacity also continued to rise, and renewables use expanded in the transport sector," said the report while stressing that distributed renewable energy is advancing rapidly to close the gap between the energy haves- and have-nots.
"2015 was a record year not only for new installations, but also for investment—reaching $286 billion worldwide in renewable power and fuels. If investment in large hydropower and in heating and cooling is taken into account, the total is far higher," the report added.
In 2014, the figure stood at $273 billion and the previous record was in 2011 when an investment to the tune of $278.5 billion was achieved. With increased investment came an increase in technological advances, cost reductions and jobs.
"There are now 8.1 million people working in the renewable energy sector—representing steady growth in stark contrast with depressed labour markets in the broader energy sector," the report said.
It stated that these results were driven by several factors like renewables now being cost-competitive with fossil fuels in many markets.
"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. For every dollar spent boosting renewables, nearly four dollars were spent to maintain our dependence on fossil fuels," said Christine Lins, executive secretary of REN21, in an official statement.
Other factors that drove the growth were better access to financing, concerns about energy security and the environment and the growing demand for modern energy services in developing and emerging economies.
The report also said government leadership continues to play a key role in driving the growth of renewables—particularly wind and solar—in the power sector.
"As of early 2016, 173 countries had renewable energy targets in place and 146 countries had support policies. Cities, communities and companies are leading the rapidly expanding 100% renewable movement, playing a vital role in advancing the global energy transition," the report added.
India too has bet big on renewable power with a target of achieving 175 GW of renewable power, including 100 GW of solar power, by year 2022. The report also outlined challenges for renewable energy, including policy and political instability, regulatory barriers and fiscal constraints for governments to achieve the global transition away from fossil fuels.