Capacity to generate power from renewable sources, including solar, wind and hydro, hit a new high in 2014, driven by a rise in the number of countries with green energy goals, an international group of experts said on Thursday.

An 8.5 percent increase in renewable energy capacity allowed the global economy and energy consumption to grow without a parallel increase in carbon emissions for the first time, according to areport from green energy policy network REN21.

The growth in renewables was powered by green energy targets and other support policies now in place in 164 countries, up from 144 in 2014, said Paris-based REN21.

“Renewable energy and improved energy efficiency are key to limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius and avoiding dangerous climate change,” REN21 chair Arthouros Zervos said in a statement.

China’s push for renewables and efforts to promote them in wealthy countries helped keep carbon emissions at the same level as in 2013, despite an annual 1.5 percent increase in world energy consumption in recent years and 3 percent growth in global gross domestic product last year, said the report.

But government policies such as subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear energy are constraining the renewables sector, keeping energy prices from non-renewable sources at artificially low levels and encouraging waste, the report added.

“Creating a level playing field would strengthen the development and use of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies,” said Christine Lins, REN21 executive secretary.

“Removing fossil-fuel and hidden nuclear subsidies globally would make it evident that renewables are the cheapest energy option.”

Renewable energy made up almost 28 percent of global power generating capacity in 2014, enough to supply close to 23 percent of electricity demand, the yearly report said.

The amount of energy available from renewable resources worldwide was greater than that produced by all coal-burning plants in the United States, the world’s second-largest coal consumer, it added.

Green energy investments in developing countries rose 36 percent in 2014 from the previous year, reaching $131 billion and coming the closest ever to investments in developed economies, which stood at $139 billion.

China accounted for 63 percent of the renewable energy investment in developing nations, while Chile, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey each invested more than $1 billion.

Solar energy capacity has grown at the fastest rate, largely thanks to rapidly falling costs, followed by wind power, REN21 said.

Globally, more than 1 billion people still lack access to electricity, the majority of them in developing countries.

This article is published in collaboration with The Thomson Reuters Foundation. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

To keep up with the Agenda subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

Author: Magda Mis is a Thomson Reuters Foundation correspondent, based in London.

Image: A prototype sun tracking solar panel is seen. REUTERS/Mike Blake. RTR2IPV9