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Renewables grew at highest ever rate in 2015

Wind energy

Renewable power generation capacity grew by 8.3% which is the highest annual growth rate on record, according to new data released by International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).

In the Renewable Capacity Statistics 2016 report, the intergovernmental organisation said that as of the end of 2015, renewable generation capacity increased by 152GW and that 1,985GW existed globally.

Irena director general Adnan Amin said: “Renewable energy deployment continues to surge in markets around the globe, even in an era of low oil and gas prices.” He added: “Falling costs for renewable energy technologies, and a host of economic, social and environmental drivers are favouring renewables over conventional power sources.

“This impressive growth, coupled with a record $286bn (£203bn) invested in renewables in 2015, sends a strong signal to investors and policymakers that renewable energy is now the preferred option for new power generation capacity around the world.”

Irena said that 2015 was a record year for both wind and solar due primarily to a continued decline in technology costs.

According to the report, wind power grew by 63GW (17%) driven by declines in onshore turbine prices of up to 45% since 2010. Solar capacity increased by 47GW (37%) due to price drops of up to 80% for solar photovoltaic modules in the same period. Hydropower capacity increased by 35GW (3%), while both bioenergy and geothermal energy capacity increased 5% each (5GW and 1GW respectively).

Overall, the report said that capacity has increased by roughly one-third over the last five years, with most of this growth coming from new installations of wind and solar energy.

In terms of regional distribution, the fastest growth in renewable generation capacity came in developing countries. Central America and the Caribbean expanded at a rate of 14.5%. In Asia, where additions accounted for 58% of new global renewable power generation capacity in 2015, capacity expanded at a rate of 12.4%. Capacity increased by 24GW (5.2%) in Europe and 20GW (6.3%) in North America.

“The significant growth rates for renewable generation capacity in developing economies are a testament to the strong business case for renewable energy,” said Amin. “Renewables are not just a solution for industrialised countries, they are also powering economic growth in the fastest growing economies in the developing world.”

At year end, hydropower accounted for the largest share of the global total renewable power generation capacity with an installed capacity of 1,209GW, the majority of which is large-scale plants. Wind and solar energy accounted for most of the remainder, with an installed capacity of 432GW and 227GW respectively. Other renewables included 104GW of bioenergy, 13GW of geothermal energy and about 500MW of marine energy (tide, wave and ocean).

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