The record-breaking growth of renewable energy
While our movement towards greener and more sustainable practices has signalled the end for some industries, it has been the driving force for others. One prime example of this is the renewable energy sector; while traditional energy markets are faltering and facing a challenging road ahead, the renewables sector is breaking records.
Unlike other markets which rely on finite natural resources, the renewables sector uses resources that naturally replenish. Collected under the umbrella term of renewables is solar, wind and wave power, alongside biomass and biofuels.
As the market continues to grow, HTL Group, specialists in controlled bolting for the wind energy sector, analyses where the renewables sector is at now:
The overall performance of the renewables market
Recent years has seen the renewables market go from strength to strength. In 2016, 138 gigawatts (GW) of renewable capacity was created, showing an 8% increase on 2015, when 128 GW was added.
The 138 GW of power generation capacity added by the renewable energy dwarfs the performance of other sectors, occupying a 55% share. Following in second place, coal created 54 GW of power-generating capacity, while gas created 37 GW and nuclear created 10 GW.
Renewables’ huge contribution to the global power-generating capacity accounted for 55% of 2016’s electricity generation capacity and 17% of the total global power capacity, increasing from 15% in 2015.
According to figures from UNEP, the growth of the renewables sector prevented an estimated total of 1.7 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2016. Based on the 39.9 billion tonnes of CO2 that was released in 2016, the figure would have been 4% higher without the availability of renewable energy sources.
Investment in the renewables market
Despite the strong performance and continued growth of the sector, investment actually fell in 2016. In 2016, $242 billion was invested in the sector, showing a 23% decrease on 2015’s figures. This reduction can largely be attributed to the falling cost of technology in each sector.
However, another key influencing factor is changes to markets on a country-specific basis. In 2016, Europe was the only region to see an increase in investment in the renewables sector, rising 3% on 2015’s figures to reach $60 billion. This performance is largely driven by the region’s offshore wind projects, which accounted for $26 billion of the total, increasing by over 50% on 2015’s figures.
Investments within Europe did vary between countries, with Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Belgium all showing the strongest investments. UK investment slipped by 1% on the previous year, while Germany’s investment dropped by 14%.
Interestingly, investment from China reduced by almost a third, down to $37 billion in 2016 from 2015’s $78 billion. Investment from developing nations also dropped in 2016 to a total of $117 billion, down from $167 billion in 2015. In 2016, investment had almost levelled out between developed and developing countries ($125 billion vs $117 billion).
Renewables now & in the future
Many recent developments are helping to bolster the performance of the renewables sector. From the falling cost of technology to societal shifts like the 2040 ban to prevent the sale of new petrol- and diesel-fuelled cars, the future certainly looks positive for the sector — even if investment has declined in the past year.
Fossil fuels still dominate the market; however, as attitudes continue to shift and equipment prices fall, we can expect the growth of renewables to continue. In the future, it is inevitable that the sector will overtake more traditional markets on a global scale, revolutionising how we generate and consume energy.