Renewable energy is booming as 2015 saw new sources coming online at a faster rate than ever.
Last year investment in clean energy was double that of new coal and gas plants, 173 countries now have renewable power targets, and over 8 million people are working in the industry, according to REN 21’s latest Renewables Global Status report.
With the huge employment, health and climate benefits of the clean energy transition, it is little wonder countries continue to focus in on renewables even as fossil fuels prices hit “historic lows”.
But with clean energy investment in Europe plummeting 21 per cent last year, and continued policy uncertainty, the region is teetering on the edge and could risk falling behind in the global race for clean energy and missing out on all that it has to offer.
- Renewables are powering ahead in the global energy race. Around 147 gigawatts (GW) of renewables were added in 2015 – mainly from wind and solar. By the end of the year there was enough clean energy to supply nearly 24 per cent of the world’s electricity, and provide 44 per cent of EU capacity. Last month, Germany passed a milestone of getting 95 per cent of its power demand from clean sources, while Portugal ran for four days straight on renewables.
- Europe is at risk of falling behind. 2015 was the first time developing countries pumped more money into renewable fuels than their richer neighbours, and subsidies for clean energy fell significantly across Europe. Roll-backs of support schemes, caps on growth andcontinued support for fossil fuels have all disadvantaged the clean energy industry and now the EU is being warned that further support for renewable projects will be needed for the bloc to meet its 2030 targets.
- Tapping into renewables will mean huge economic and health wins. According to IRENA, while the number of people working in the renewables industry grew 5 per cent in 2015, to 8.1 million, Europe saw employment fall. Meanwhile, the health benefits of shifting away from dirty, dangerous fossil fuels into cleaner renewables are more apparent than ever and with local governments and citizens leading the clean energy transition, renewable energy is delivering huge benefits directly to local communities.