Renewables continue their unstoppable advance around the world

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REN21 has published its Renewables 2017 Global Status Report, revealing that renewable energies are continuing to make progress around the world. 2016 was a record year for renewables, having installed more capacity with less investment. The main conclusions of this report find that:

New installed renewable capacity in 2016 rose to 161 GW, 9% up on 2015, setting a new record. PV was the renewable with the most installed capacity, standing at 47%, followed by wind power with 34%; and hydro with 15.5%. However, the level of investment dropped by 23% compared to 2015, with the investment in renewables (excluding the investment in hydro projects of more than 50 MW) amounting to US$241.6bn (US$264.8bn taking into account previously excluded projects). Even so, at global level, for the fifth year running investments in renewables were almost double those in fossil fuels. In the last seven years, investment in renewables has exceeded fossil fuel investment by US$200bn.

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Costs continue to fall quickly, and renewables are already the cheapest option in many countries in which auctions have lead to extremely low prices. These include Argentina, Chile, India, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE with offers of under 0.03 US$/kWh for PV, and in Chile, India, Mexico and Morocco where record prices for wind power have been set. In Europe, offshore wind power auctions in the Netherlands and Denmark also achieved an historic milestone.

In its reports, REN21 qualifies the need for baseload as a milestone, offering the following figures: in 2016 Denmark and Germany successfully managed peaks of 140% and 86.3% respectively in power generation with renewables; and in countries such as Portugal, Ireland and Cyprus, annual quotas of 20-30% of renewable electricity without storage were achieved.

Despite this, the report recognises that new innovations and solutions in storage technologies will provide the electrical system with increasing flexibility. In 2016, a storage capacity of almost 0.8 GW was put into operation, closing the year with an accumulated total of 6.4 GW.

The report also provides an overview of the heating and cooling and transport sectors with particular mention of the progress made by electric vehicles. In 2016, sales of electric passenger vehicles rose to 775,000 units, and at the end of the year, more than 2 million EVs were in circulation worldwide. Despite slow progress in the heating and cooling sector, 2016 has seen positive advances. The use of solar heat continues to grow in industries such as food and drink and mining; and this is extending to others. Solar thermal continues to be incorporated into DHC networks, headed up by Denmark, with growing interest to include geothermals into these plants.