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A decade of renewable energy investment, led by solar, tops USD 2.5 trillion

MD Staff

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Global investment in new renewable energy capacity over this decade — 2010 to 2019 inclusive — is on course to hit USD 2.6 trillion, with more gigawatts of solar power capacity installed than any other generation technology, according to new figures published today.

According to the Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2019 report, released ahead of the UN Global Climate Action Summit, this investment is set to have roughly quadrupled renewable energy capacity (excluding large hydro) from 414 GW at the end of 2009 to just over 1,650 GW when the decade closes at the end of this year.

Solar power will have drawn half — USD 1.3 trillion — of the USD 2.6 trillion in renewable energy capacity investments made over the decade. Solar alone will have grown from 25 GW at the beginning of 2010 to an expected 663 GW by the close of 2019 — enough to produce all the electricity needed each year by about 100 million average homes in the USA.

The global share of electricity generation accounted for by renewables reached 12.9 per cent, in 2018, up from 11.6 per cent in 2017. This avoided an estimated 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions last year alone — a substantial saving given global power sector emissions of 13.7 billion tonnes in 2018.

Including all major generating technologies (fossil and zero-carbon), the decade is set to see a net 2,366 GW of power capacity installed, with solar accounting for the largest single share (638 GW), coal second (529 GW), and wind and gas in third and fourth places (487 GW and 438 GW respectively).

The cost-competitiveness of renewables has also risen dramatically over the decade. The levelized cost of electricity (a measure that allows comparison of different methods of electricity generation on a consistent basis) is down 81 per cent for solar photovoltaics since 2009; that for onshore wind is down 46 per cent.

“But we cannot afford to be complacent. Global power sector emissions have risen about 10 per cent over this period. It is clear that we need to rapidly step up the pace of the global switch to renewables if we are to meet international climate and development goals.”

2018 sees quarter-trillion dollar mark exceeded again

The report, released annually since 2007, also continued its traditional look at yearly figures, with global investment in renewables capacity hitting USD 272.9 billion in 2018.

While this was 12 per cent down over the previous year, 2018 was the ninth successive year in which capacity investment exceeded USD 200 billion and the fifth successive year above USD 250 billion. It was also was about three times the global investment in coal and gas-fired generation capacity combined.

The 2018 figure was achieved despite continuing falls in the capital cost of solar and wind projects, and despite a policy change that hit investment in China in the second half of the year.

A record 167 GW of new renewable energy capacity was completed in 2018, up from 160 GW in 2017.

Jon Moore, Chief Executive of BloombergNEF (BNEF), the research company that provides the data and analysis for the Global Trends report, commented: “Sharp falls in the cost of electricity from wind and solar over recent years have transformed the choice facing policy-makers. These technologies were always low-carbon and relatively quick to build. Now, in many countries around the world, either wind or solar is the cheapest option for electricity generation.”

The report also tracks other, non-capacity investment in renewables — money going into technology and specialist companies. All of these types of investment showed increases in 2018. Government and corporate research and development was up 10 per cent at USD 13.1 billion, while equity raised by renewable energy companies on public markets was 6 per cent higher at USD 6 billion, and venture capital and private equity investment was up 35 per cent at USD 2 billion.

Overall renewable energy investment, including these categories as well as capacity investment, reached USD 288.3 billion in 2018, down 11 per cent on the record figure of USD 325 billion attained in 2017.

“The technologies to use wind, sun or geothermal energy are available, they are competitive and clean. Within 10 years Germany will produce two-thirds of its power based on renewables. We are demonstrating that an industrial country can phase out coal and, at the same time, nuclear energy without putting its economy at risk” said Svenja Schulze, Germany’s Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.

“We know that renewables make sense for the climate and for the economy. Yet we are not investing nearly enough to decarbonize power production, transport and heat in time to limit global warming to 2C or ideally 1.5C. If we want to achieve a safe and sustainable future, we need to do a lot more now in terms of creating an enabling-regulatory environment and infrastructure that encourage investment in renewables.”

“It is important to see renewables becoming first choice in many places,” said Nils Stieglitz, President of Frankfurt School of Finance and Management. “But now we need to think beyond scaling-up renewables. Divesting from coal is just one issue within the broader field of sustainable finance. Investors increasingly care whether what they do makes sense in the context of a low-carbon and sustainable future.”

China still leads, but renewables investment spreads

China has been by far the biggest investor in renewables capacity over this decade, having committed USD 758 billion between 2010 and the first half of 2019, with the U.S. second on USD 356 billion and Japan third on USD 202 billion.

Europe as a whole invested USD 698 billion in renewables capacity over the same period, with Germany contributing the most at USD 179 billion, and the United Kingdom USD 122 billion.

While China remained the largest single investor in 2018 (at USD 88.5 billion, down 38 per cent), renewable energy capacity investment was more spread out across the globe than ever last year, with 29 countries each investing more than USD 1 billion, up from 25 in 2017 and 21 in 2016.

The Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment report is commissioned by the UN Environment Programme in cooperation with Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate & Sustainable Energy Finance and produced in collaboration with BloombergNEF. The report is supported by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety.

UN Environment

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Consumers crave trust and control in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

MD Staff

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A new report from PwC finds consumers are getting on board with Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies, with 90% using at least one 4IR technology.

However as digital and physical worlds continue to blend, the rate of adoption may slow unless global businesses address workforce upskilling requirements and consumers’ desire for transparency and control.

The PwC global report, Are we ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution?, surveyed 6,000 consumers and 1,800 business leaders in six countries to obtain a clear picture of consumer sentiment toward 4IR technologies and their impact on life and work. Technologies surveyed included AI, internet of things, blockchains, and 3D printing.

PwC found consumers are leveraging a range of 4IR technologies*, and recognising benefits like time savings and productivity improvements. However consumers remain concerned about key issues including trust, that could significantly impact the overall adoption and success of the 4IR.

Balancing convenience with trust

Consumers welcome the conveniences that new technology brings but are cautious when it comes to their personal privacy. PwC found this to be true across markets, with South Korea (74%), India (70%) and the U.S. and China (tied at 69%) ranking data privacy and security as a top concern. The U.K. and Germany are slightly less concerned, at 66% and 58% respectively.

Conversely, South Korea (51%) is most likely to use 4IR products and services to access or store their financial information, compared to the U.S. (35%) the UK (24%) and Germany (20%), while South Korea (64%) and the U.S. and India (tied at 62%) are most likely to share health information to make them healthier or improve their quality of life.

When asked to identify their top three 4IR investment priorities, only 40% of business leaders cited alerting consumers to data breaches—yet consumers ranked this second-highest in importance to increase their comfort with 4IR.

Beyond the tech – driving workforce transformation in the 4IR

Employers and consumers are aligned on the positive impact 4IR can make in the workplace, especially when it comes to eliminating tedious tasks and optimising workflows. Additionally, 59% of consumers say that 4IR technology gives them more control over their work-life balance.

However, business leaders and consumers diverge when it comes to the impact of 4IR on their employment outlook, with business leaders (69%) seeing 4IR technologies as a driver of job creation, consumers (45%) citing 4IR technology as a concern over job security.

From a global perspective, concerns about job security are higher in Asia. India (73%), South Korea (57%) and China (52%) had a majority of respondents expressing concern, compared to the U.K. (44%), the U.S. (37%),and Germany (33%).

The analysis underlines how the the 4th Industrial Revolution is more than just technology. It’s a revolution of how we work and live.The challenge for business leaders is a clear disconnect between their priorities and those of employees when it comes to the impact of 4IR technology investments in the workforce. From employees’ perspective, it’s critical that business leaders establish mechanisms for employees to share concerns about the impact of technology on their jobs.

“As smart products and digital innovations continue to flood the market and enter the workplace, business leaders need to commit to a transparent, collaborative approach to upskilling their organisations, doing so with a clear purpose related to the business and human benefits of 4IR adoption,” says Steve Pillsbury, PwC US Digital Operations Leader. “It’s up to employers to arm their workforces with this personalised learning and to foster both a business-led and grass-roots application of the new 4IR-related skills.”

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Asia Poised to Become Dominant Market for Wind Energy

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Asia could grow its share of installed capacity for onshore wind from 230 Gigawatt (GW) in 2018 to over 2600 GW by 2050, a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) finds. By that time, the region would become a global leader in wind, accounting for more than 50 per cent of all onshore and over 60 per cent of all offshore wind capacity installed globally.

According to the “Future of Wind” published at China Wind Power in Beijing today, global wind power could rise ten-fold reaching over 6000 GW by 2050. By midcentury, wind could cover one third of global power needs and – combined with electrification – deliver a quarter of the energy-related carbon emission reductions needed to meet the Paris climate targets. To reach this objective, onshore and offshore wind capacity will need to increase four-fold and ten-fold respectively every year compared to today.

“With renewables, it’s possible to achieve a climate-safe future,” said IRENA’s Director-General Francesco La Camera. “Low-cost renewable energy technologies like wind power are readily-available today, representing the most effective and immediate solution for reducing carbon emissions. Our roadmap for a global energy transformation to 2050 shows that it is technically and economically feasible to ensure a climate-safe, sustainable energy future. Unlocking global wind energy potential will be particularly important. In fact, wind energy could be the largest single source of power generation by mid-century under this path. This would not only enable us to meet climate goals, but it would also boost economic growth and create jobs, thereby accelerating sustainable development.”

The global wind industry could become a veritable job motor, employing over 3.7 million people by 2030 and more than 6 million people by 2050, IRENA’s new report finds. These figures are respectively nearly three times higher and five times higher than the slightly over one million jobs in 2018. Sound industrial and labour policies that build upon and strengthen domestic supply chains can enable income and employment growth by leveraging existing economic activities in support of wind industry development.

But to accelerate the growth of global wind power over the coming decades, scaling up investments will be key. On average, global annual investment in onshore wind must increase from today USD 67 billion to 211 billion in 2050. For offshore wind, global average annual investments would need to increase from USD 19 billion to 100 billion in 2050.

Statistical highlights:

Asia would account for more than 50% of global onshore wind power installations by 2050, followed by North America (23%) and Europe (10%). For offshore, Asia would cover more than 60% of global installations, followed by Europe (22%) and North America (16%).

Within Asia, China would take the lead with 2525 GW of installed onshore and offshore wind capacity by 2050, followed by India (443 GW), Republic of Korea (78 GW) and South-East Asia (16 GW).

Globally, the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) for onshore wind will continue to fall to 2-3 cents USD/kWh by 2050 compared to 6 cents USD/kWh in 2018. Costs of offshore wind will drop significantly to 3-7 cents USD/kWh by 2050 compared to 13 cents USD/kWh in 2018.

Wind turbine size for onshore applications will increase, from an average of 2.6 megawatts (MW) in 2018 to 4-5 MW for turbines commissioned by 2025. Offshore applications will likely increase to 15-20 MW in a decade or two. Floating wind farms could cover around 5-15% of the global offshore wind installed capacity (almost 1 000 GW) by 2050.

Read the full report “Future of Wind”.

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Global solar PV market set for spectacular growth over next 5 years

MD Staff

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The installation of solar PV systems on homes, commercial buildings and industrial facilities is set to take off over the next five years, transforming the way electricity is generated and consumed, according to the International Energy Agency’s latest renewable energy market forecast.

These applications – known collectively as distributed PV – are the focus of the IEA’s Renewables 2019 market report, which was released today.

The report forecasts that the world’s total renewable-based power capacity will grow by 50% between 2019 and 2024. This increase of 1,200 gigawatts – equivalent to the current total power capacity of the United States – is driven by cost reductions and concerted government policy efforts. Solar PV accounts for 60% of the rise. The share of renewables in global power generation is set to rise from 26% today to 30% in 2024.

The expected growth comes after renewable capacity additions stalled last year for the first time in almost two decades. The renewed expansion remains well below what is needed to meet global sustainable energy targets, however.

“Renewables are already the world’s second largest source of electricity, but their deployment still needs to accelerate if we are to achieve long-term climate, air quality and energy access goals,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director.

The report highlights the three main challenges that need to be overcome to speed up the deployment of renewables: policy and regulatory uncertainty, high investment risks and system integration of wind and solar PV.

Distributed PV accounts for almost half of the growth in the overall solar PV market through 2024. Contrary to conventional wisdom, commercial and industrial applications rather than residential uses dominate distributed PV growth, accounting for three-quarters of new installations over the next five years. This is because economies of scale combined with better alignment of PV supply and electricity demand enable more self-consumption and bigger savings on electricity bills in the commercial and industrial sectors.

Still, the number of solar rooftop systems on homes is set to more than double to some 100 million by 2024, with the top markets on a per capita basis that year forecast to be Australia, Belgium, California, the Netherlands and Austria.

“As costs continue to fall, we have a growing incentive to ramp up the deployment of solar PV,” said Dr Birol. The cost of generating electricity from distributed solar PV systems is already below retail electricity prices in most countries. The IEA forecasts that these costs will decline by a further 15% to 35% by 2024, making the technology more attractive and spurring adoption worldwide.

The report warns, however, that important policy and tariff reforms are needed to ensure distributed PV’s growth is sustainable. Unmanaged growth could disrupt electricity markets by raising system costs, challenging the grid integration of renewables and reducing the revenues of network operators. By reforming retail tariffs and adapting policies, utilities and governments can attract investment in distributed PV while also securing enough revenues to pay for fixed network assets and ensuring that the cost burden is allocated fairly among all consumers.

“Distributed PV’s potential is breathtaking, but its development needs to be well managed to balance the different interests of PV system owners, other consumers and energy and distribution companies,” Dr Birol said. “The IEA is ready to advise governments on what is needed to take full advantage of this rapidly emerging technology without jeopardising electricity security.”

According to the report’s Accelerated Case, improving economics, policy support and more effective regulation could push distributed PV’s global installed capacity above 600 GW by 2024, almost double Japan’s total power capacity today. Yet this accelerated growth is still only 6% of distributed PV’s technical potential based on total available rooftop area.

As in previous years, Renewables 2019 also offers forecasts for all sources of renewable energy. Renewable heat is set to expand by one-fifth between 2019 and 2024, driven by China, the European Union, India and the United States. The heat and power sectors become increasingly interconnected as renewable electricity used for heat rises by more than 40%. But overall, renewable heat potential remains vastly underexploited. The share of renewables in total heat demand is forecast to remain below 12% in 2024, calling for more ambitious targets and stronger policy support.

Biofuels currently represent some 90% of renewable energy in transport and their use is set to increase by 25% over the next five years. Growth is dominated by Asia, particularly China, and is driven by energy security and air pollution concerns.  Despite the rapid expansion of electric vehicles, renewable electricity only accounts for one-tenth of renewable energy consumption in transport in 2024. And the share of renewables in total transport fuel demand still remains below 5%. The Accelerated Case sees renewables in transport growing by an additional 20% through 2024 on the assumption of higher quota levels and enhanced policy support that opens new markets in aviation and marine transport.

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