Renewable energy is now “firmly established” as a competitive and mainstream source of energy, according to a new report.
The Renewables 2016 Global Status Report said that last year was a record year for the sector, with an estimated 147GW of renewable power generation added.
The report has been published by REN21, a membership body focused on renewable energy policy. Members include countries such as the UK, India and Brazil, international bodies such as the World Bank and non-governmental organisations such as the World Wildlife Fund.
The surge in renewables was primarily driven by its price competitiveness with fossil fuels, according to the report. Also, political directives drove growth, with 173 countries having renewable energy targets in place.
“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,” said REN21 executive secretary Christine Lins. “For every dollar spent boosting renewables, nearly four dollars were spent to maintain our dependence on fossil fuels.”
The report also found £195bn was spent worldwide on renewable power, with China accounting for a third of the spend and developing countries spending more than developed countries.
Now REN21 has said there needs to be a “high-speed rail” for renewables. “The renewables train is barreling down the tracks, but it’s running on 20th century infrastructure – a system based on outdated thinking where conventional baseload is generated by fossil fuels and nuclear power,” said REN21 chair Arthouros Zervos.
“To accelerate the transition to a healthier, more secure and climate-safe future, we need to build the equivalent of a high-speed rail network – a smarter, more flexible system that maximises the use of variable sources of renewable energy, and accommodates decentralised and community-based generation.”