Another Record Year for Renewables

Launched on June 4th, 2014 at the Sustainable Energy for All Forum (SE4ALL) in New York, REN21’s Renewables 2014 Global Report documents the record level of global renewable energy generation capacity that occurred in 2013. Much of this increase was underpinned by the increasing support for renewables in emerging economies; 95 of which had supporting policies in place, up six-fold from just 15 countries in 2005. By early 2014 there were 144 countries with renewable energy targets and 138 with supporting policies globally.

The year was also memorable for other renewable milestones.  As renewable energy markets and industries mature, they increasingly face new and different challenges, as well as a wide range of opportunities.  In 2013, renewables faced declining policy support and uncertainty in many European countries. Electric grid-related concerns, opposition in some countries from electric utilities concerned about rising competition, and continuing high global subsidies for fossil fuels were also issues.

However by year’s end global renewable power capacity exceeded 1,560 gigawatts (GW), equalling an 8.3% increase over 2012. Hydropower rose by 4% to approximately 1,000 GW, accounting for about one-third of renewable power capacity added during the year. Other renewables collectively grew nearly 17% to an estimated 560 GW.  For the first time more solar PV than wind power capacity was added worldwide.  

The year ended with renewables accounting for more than 56% of net additions to global power capacity and now meet almost one-fifth of the world’s energy needs.  China, the United States, Brazil, Canada, and Germany remained the top countries for total installed renewable power capacity. Of special note was China’s new renewable power capacity which surpassed new fossil fuel and nuclear capacity for the first time.  The success of renewables was also felt in the employment sector where an estimated 6.5 million people worldwide currently work directly or indirectly in the sector.

Global new investment in renewable power and fuels was at least USD 249.4 billion in 2013 down from its record level in 2011. However the global decline in investment was also a result of sharp reductions in technology costs.

Collectively, lower costs and efficiency improvements made it possible to build onshore wind and solar PV installations in a number of locations around the world in 2013 without subsidy support. Considering only net investment in new power capacity, renewables outpaced fossil fuels for the fourth year running.

As this year’s Renewables 2014 Global Status Report clearly demonstrates that 2013 was another record year for renewables. The question is no longer whether renewables have a role to play in the provision of energy services, but rather how we can best increase the current pace to achieve a 100% renewables future with full energy access for all.  

For full report: