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  • How Much Has Renewable Energy Capacity Grown in the 2010s?

How Much Has Renewable Energy Capacity Grown in the 2010s?

Oct 28 2019 Read 779 Times

Global renewable energy capacity has quadrupled in the last 10 years, according to the latest figures released by the UN. From 414GW in 2010 to approximately 1,650GW today, the sector has seen greater investment and faster growth than any other in the energy industry. Solar power performed particularly well, jumping up from 25GW in 2009 to 663GW in 2019.

The encouraging news was contained within the Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment report, which the UN publishes each year and which precedes the Global Climate Action Summit in December. However, leading experts on the topic cautioned that more work must still be done to ensure that these gains are built upon and that the climate crisis currently facing the world’s population is not allowed to spiral out of control.

Encouraging stats

The figures published by the UN show that investment into renewable technologies will exceed £2 billion by the end of this year, with solar power responsible for approximately half of that amount. Indeed, solar power generation capacity is up a remarkable 26 times since the 2009 level, while its efficiency has also skyrocketed against other forms of energy production. It’s now 81% more effective by comparison.

Overall, renewables now account for 12.9% of all power produced on the planet, which is an increase from 2017, when investment into wind and solar technologies set new capacity records of 11.6% of the overall total. It’s estimated that the rise of renewables has contributed to a two-billion-tonne reduction in carbon emissions, which is an astonishing result when considering that a total of 13.7 billion tonnes were emitted by the power sector last year.

Diversity of investment sources has also shown improvement in recent times. While China is still the biggest investor in green technology by some distance (£68.9 billion in 2018), the list of countries ploughing over £780 million into the field shot up to 29 last year, compared to 25 the year previous and 21 the one before that.

Room for improvement

Despite the positive signs, leading voices were quick to point out that there is much work still to be done to tackle the serious problems facing our planet. While solar and wind accounted for the first and third most invested-in technologies over the last decade, coal and gas made up the other spots in the top four. Those damaging industries demand environmental housekeeping around the refinery in the short term and complete phasing out in the long term.

Meanwhile, the UN’s Executive Director of its Environment Programme Inger Andersen was at pains to highlight that global carbon emissions have actually increased, despite the headway made with regard to renewables. “Investing in renewable energy is investing in a sustainable and profitable future, as the last decade of incredible growth in renewables has shown,” he explained.

“But we cannot afford to be complacent. Global power sector emissions have risen about 10% 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.”

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