Renewable energy set new records in 2015 for investment and capacity added, according to a new report commissioned by UNEP.

Sian Crampsie

Renewable energy set new records in 2015 for investment and capacity added, according to a new report commissioned by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The 10th Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment shows that $285.9 billion was invested in renewable energy in 2015, beating the previous record of $278.5 billion set in 2011.

That investment resulted in 118 GW of new generating capacity being added globally, said the report, way ahead of the 2014 figure of 94 GW. The report also noted that 2015 was the first year in which investment in renewables excluding large hydro in developing countries outweighed that in developed economies.

The developing world including China, India and Brazil committed a total of $156 billion, up 19 per cent on 2014, while developed countries invested $130 billion, down 8 per cent. A large element in this turnaround was China, which lifted its investment by 17 per cent to $102.9 billion, or 36 per cent of the world total.

The assessment, produced by the Frankfurt School-Unep Collaborating Centre for Climate and Sustainable Energy Finance and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, also said that global investment in renewable power capacity was more than double dollar allocations to new coal and gas generation, which was an estimated $130 billion in 2015.

However, the huge weight of conventional generation capacity already built meant that new, clean technologies only accounted for just over 10 per cent of world electricity last year.

In the foreword of the report, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said the findings increased confidence that a low-carbon world was obtainable. "We have entered a new era of clean energy growth that can fuel a future of opportunity and greater prosperity for every person on the planet," he said, adding that in order to avoid dangerous climate change, an "immediate shift away from fossil fuels" was required.

The report indicates that investment in renewables fell by 21 per cent in 2015 in spite of a record year for offshore wind financing, which was up 11 per cent at $17 billion.

It said that the USA saw a 19 per cent increase in renewable energy commitments to $44.1 billion, the highest level since 2011.

Japan attracted $36.2 billion, a similar level to its 2014 figure, thanks to a continuing boom in small-scale PV.