Reports: Renewables Were Revived in 2014

Despite plunging oil prices, 2014 was a formidable year for renewables, according to two reports released in early 2015.

According to the “Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2015”—the annual report prepared by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate & Sustainable Energy Finance, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance—energy investments in renewables rebounded, surging 17% over the previous year, to $270 billion worldwide.

A primary reason for this was that 2014 marked a rapid expansion of renewables into new markets in developing countries. While China, predictably, saw by far the biggest renewable energy investments (a record $83.3 billion—and a stunning increase of 39% compared to 2013), the top 10 investing countries also featured the U.S., Brazil, India, South Africa, and, on a smaller scale, Indonesia, Chile, Mexico, Kenya, and Turkey.

The U.S. saw investments of $38.3 billion—up 7%. Comparatively, the rise in investments in Europe was small, less than 1% to $57.5 billion. That includes $3.8 billion for the largest-ever single renewable energy asset finance deal outside large hydro for the 600-MW Gemini offshore wind project that will be located in Dutch waters.

The UNEP report notes that wind, solar, biomass, waste-to-power, geothermal, small hydro, and marine power accounted for an estimated 9.1% of world electricity generation in 2014, compared to 8.5% in 2013. Investments jumped particularly for solar (29% compared to 2013) and wind (11%).

In its annual market survey released in February, the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) noted that 51,477 MW of new wind capacity was added in 2014. The record-setting figure is a “solid sign of the recovery of the industry after a rough patch in the past few years,” it said.

Total cumulative wind installations worldwide stood at 369,553 MW at the end of 2014, GWEC noted (Figure 4). Growth surged in China—which now represents 45% of the global market—with 23,351 MW of new wind power. India’s 2,315 MW was a distant second in Asia, “although the stage is now set for a new round of market growth in that country,” said GWEC.

4. Countries with the top cumulative wind capacity in December 2014. Courtesy: GWEC

The European market grew marginally in 2014, with 12,820 MW of new capacity, just shy of 2012’s record. Brazil’s 2,472 MW in new installations led Latin American installations of 3,749 MW, although Chile (506 MW) and Uruguay (405 MW) also made strong showings. Meanwhile, the U.S. market recovered in 2014 from 2013’s nadir with 4,854 MW, Canada (1,871 MW) set a new record, and Mexico (522 MW) was solid.

“Australia’s 567 MW showed that the renewables industry in Australia is not dead, despite the best efforts of the government to kill it,” GWEC said.

Sonal Patel, associate editor