4 charts that show the rise of renewables

A view shows windmills of several wind farms at the so-called "HelWin-Cluster", located 35 kilometres (22 miles) north of the German island of Heligoland November 5, 2014. As European governments start to curb offshore renewable power subsidies, utilities, wind turbine makers and installers are racing to cut costs to help the industry survive. Britain, Germany and the Netherlands, wary of committing billions of euros when budgets are tight, have announced subsidy cuts in the past 18 months - a blow to the European offshore wind industry which employs nearly 60,000 people. This has led the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) to slash its forecasts for installed offshore capacity in Europe. However, utilities remain keen to invest in offshore wind - which the EWEA says is the fastest-growing power technology in Europe. To match story RENEWABLES-WINDPOWER/OFFSHORE      Picture taken November 5, 2014.   REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

Image: REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

Joe Myers
Writer, Forum Agenda
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The Paris Climate Agreement calls for a global reduction in emissions in order to keep global warming within 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. A key part of achieving this goal will be a shift away from fossil fuels, towards renewable energy sources.

Last year saw record levels of investment in green energy. “Renewables are becoming ever more central to our low-carbon lifestyles, and the record-setting investments in 2015 are further proof of this trend,” explained UN Environment Programme Executive Director Achim Steiner.

These four charts will help you visualize the growth of global renewable energy.

A year of milestones

 2015 was a year of milestones for renewable energy.
Image: UN

2015 was a significant year for renewable energy. This graphic from the UN highlights some of the major milestones achieved last year. Overall spending hit record levels, at US$286bn – over double the investment in fossil fuels. Additionally, for the first time, developing countries invested more than the developed world.

China leads the way

 New investment in renewable energy by country
Image: UN

In terms of investment, China is leading the charge towards a renewable future. Their total spend topped $100bn, which accounted for over a third of the total global investment. Other countries also saw significant increases in their green investment from 2014 to 2015. Chile, South Africa and Mexico all saw spending rise by over 100% on the previous year’s total.

Falling costs shine a light on potential of solar

 Falling solar prices against solar installations.
Image: Bloomberg

This chart from Bloomberg shows the impact of falling costs on the installation of solar panels. It emphasises the increase in electricity generation as the cost of panels has declined. Equally, it highlights the importance of constant innovation, and indeed investment.

Winds of change

 Global wind generation capacity.
Image: BP

It’s not just solar capacity that’s on the rise. As this BP chart shows, even in the last decade, wind power has seen a rapid increase in capacity. Just five countries dominate global capacity, but the contribution of the rest of the world is still significant. With European investment in offshore wind projects hitting record levels last year, wind power generation is set to rise further.

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