It seems that the tables may have finally turned. Last year saw the number of new renewables increase at the fastest rate yet recorded, as well as investments in clean energy sources reach more than twice that spent on new coal or gas power stations. Yet incredibly, this massive surge in renewables has not be driven by the richer nations, as a new report looking into the sector has found that poorer nations actually invested more in green energy in 2015 than developed countries.
Compiled by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (Ren21), the report breaks down exactly how much has been invested in new green energy, and found that this comes to an impressive $286 billion dollars worldwide. This has created over 8 million jobs, and added an extra 147 gigawatts of capacity to the global grid in 2015 alone, comparable to Africa’s generating capacity from all sources. Coupled with the gathering of a strong fossil fuel divestment movement taking hold, it does seem like something has changed.
Amazingly, not only is the fact that record money is now being invested in renewables good news, it is happening at a time when the fossil fuel industry is still being propped up by subsidies to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide. In fact, some major government such as the UK and Japan have in recent years even increased the subsidies for fossil fuels.
“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,” explains executive secretary of Ren21, Christine Lins. “For every dollar spent boosting renewables, nearly four dollars were spent to maintain our dependence on fossil fuels.”
If this has been achieved while the subsidies are still in place, then things might be about to get even better. At the latest G7 meeting – which includes Japan and the UK as well as the US, Italy, Germany, France, Canada and the EU – leaders have pledged to cut fossil fuel subsidies by 2025. This could be a massive boost for the renewables sector, and may see even more money flood in in the form of investments.
The report also highlights that while much of the criticism against climate change is one regarding the efficacy of cutting emission when developing nations such as China and India are continuing to rise, this reasoning simply doesn’t hold. For the first time ever, developing nations have outspent developed countries on renewable energy, with China leading the pack globally. This comes as the use of coal in the country, which is frequently given the reputation of being unstainable and highly polluted, has been dropping.
As the cost for renewables – mainly solar and wind – continues to drop, then it is only expected that more and more countries take them up. This is already being seen in small economies, from Mauritania to Jamaica, and is seemingly only set to continue, giving at least a modicum of hope that perhaps we might be able to wean ourselves off the dirty fossil fuels after all.