Despite Cheap Oil, Renewables
by Alan Neuhauser
Falling costs for wind and solar spurred strong investments in green energy in 2015,
even as crude oil prices plummeted, a new report says.
Plunging oil prices may be spurring more drivers to buy gas-guzzling trucks, but they haven't stopped worldwide investment in clean sources of electricity, which climbed to a new record in 2015.
More than three-quarters of the world's newest power plants were made up of wind turbines and solar panels last year, according to the latest report by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century, or REN21, which is based at the United Nations Environment Programme in Paris.
"The year 2015 was an extraordinary one for renewable energy, with the largest global capacity additions seen to date," the Renewables 2016 Global Status Report said.
About 147 gigawatts of renewable energy was added to grids worldwide, driven by falling prices for renewables, greater investments in batteries to store intermittent wind and solar power, and the agreement aimed at curbing climate change reached in Paris last December.
Countries now add more renewable power capacity annually than capacity from coal, oil and gas combined, even as crude oil prices have plummeted to record lows amid a glut of supply. By the end of last year, there were enough renewable power sources on the grid, including hydropower, to meet nearly a quarter of the world's energy demand.
"What is truly remarkable about these results is that they were achieved at a time when fossil fuel prices were at historic lows," Christine Lins, executive secretary of REN21, said in a statement.
Challenges still remain, the report noted, from uncertainties surrounding energy policies to regulatory barriers and continued cheap prices for oil, gas and coal.
While Portugal last month ran for four consecutive days on wind, solar and hydro-generated power alone, it's an achievement that also underscores the difficulties that remain in making renewables a long-term source of reliable electricity.
The Renewables Global Status Report was compiled with data from hundreds of researchers, contributors and other sources. It was first published in 2005.
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