Renewable Energy Responsible for First Ever Carbon Emissions Stabilization

Carbon emissions in 2014 remained at the previous year’s levels of 32.3 billion metric tons — a milestone that points to the impact worldwide renewable energy investment is having in the face of a 1.5 percent annual increase in global energy consumption, according to a new report from REN21. The tenth annual Renewables 2015 Global Status Report cites “increased penetration of renewable energy” and improvements in energy efficiency as the chief reasons for the noted emissions stabilization.

Renewables Capacity Beats Out Coal and Gas Combined

Among numerous findings, the report also states that renewable energy sources accounted for 59 percent of net global power capacity additions in 2014, which was more than coal and gas combined.

A total of 135 gigawatts (GW) of renewable capacity was added in 2014, bringing the running total of worldwide installed capacity to 1,712 GW. This figure represents an 8.5 percent increase over 2013 and is more than twice the capacity that existed 10 years ago. Also up is the number of countries that now have renewable energy policies in place: 164, which is 20 more countries than in 2013. In 2004, that number was only 48.

Top Global Renewable Rankings

According to the report, the top five countries with the greatest annual investment in renewable power and fuels were China, the U.S., Japan, the U.K. and Germany.

Burundi was noted as the country with the greatest per-unit GDP investment in renewable power and fuels. China ranked first in hydropower, wind power, solar PV and solar water heating capacity. The U.S. took first in CSP capacity, biodiesel and fuel ethanol production. Kenya was ranked first in geothermal power capacity.

The countries with the greatest renewable power generation in 2014 were China, the U.S., Brazil, Germany and Canada.

Global Investment Up 17 Percent

Additionally, the report shows global investment in renewable power and fuels (not counting hydropower greater than 50 megawatts) rose 17 percent between 2013 and 2014, to USD $270.2 billion. In 2004, that figure was $45 billion. The report notes the greatest spending increase occurred in China, where total renewable power and fuels buy-in made up for nearly two-thirds of all developing country investment. Solar power, with significant emphasis on solar PV, accounted for 55 percent of new investment.

A Call for an End to Fossil and Nuclear Subsidies

Not just a celebratory observance of the great gains made in recent years by renewable energy, the report also calls out continued annual subsidies for fossil fuel and nuclear energy as factors that may be stunting even greater renewable growth.

Christine Lins, Executive Secretary for REN21, stated that eliminating fossil fuel and nuclear energy subsidies would “strengthen the development and use of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies” and “make it evident that renewables are the cheapest energy option.”

The REN21 Renewables 2015 Global Status Report, which provides an in-depth look at international renewable energy investment rankings and global market trends, is available online now.

Lead image: Planet with trees. Credit: Shutterstock.

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Vince Font is a freelance journalist specializing in the fields of renewable energy, high tech, travel, and entertainment. Read his blog at or follow him on Twitter @vincefont.

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