Record new renewable energies were implemented into energy systems around the world in 2016 for a lower cost as ‘clean’ technology fell, according to a report.
138.5 gigawatts (up 8% from 2015) were added to global power capacity courtesy of wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, small-scale hydropower, marine energy and waste-to-energy schemes. This is the same as the total capacity installed in Canada.
Despite the gigawatt increase, the cost of the global investment in renewables was down by almost a quarter to $241.6 billion, as renewables such as solar and wind fell in price.
The report, put together by UN Environment, Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the Frankfurt school-UNEP Collaborating Centre, found that the spending per unit of solar and wind dropped by more than a tenth.
“Ever-cheaper clean tech provides a real opportunity for investors to get more for less,” says executive director of UN Environment Erik Solheim.
“This is exactly the kind of situation, where the needs of profit and people meet, that will drive the shift to a better world for all.”
Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, questioned whether renewables will ever be truly grid competitive.
“After the dramatic cost reductions of the past few years, unsubsidised wind and solar can provide the lowest cost new electrical power in an increasing number of countries, even in the developing world – sometimes by a factor of two,” says Liebreich.
“It’s a whole new world,” he says. “Instead of having to subsidise renewables, now authorities may have to subsidise natural gas plants to help them provide grid reliability.”